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From ~ January 1954 National Geographic
Rie Munoz King Island
A Village's Entire Population Rides North Star
Home for Winter
who have spent summer in Nome return to isolated
Ukivok village to face long, dark nights. They
support themselves by hunting seal and walrus, and
catching fish and crab. Here Rie Munoz and her
husband shared the islanders' lonely life for nine
months. Walrus-hide hunting boats (Umiaks) on the
ship's deck will carry supplies ashore. Landings
can be dangerous, for the village has no beach.
Sea ice will form quickly early in December.
Eskimo Children Play Hopscotch on a
Narrow Ledge Above Ukivok Village
home of 150 people, rocky King Island lies 35
miles west of mainland Alaska in the Bering Sea.
Anchored ice clings to the shore. Rie Munoz and
her husband taught school in the building at lower
With Alaska's Flag Hastily Flown, Rie Munoz
Signals a Plane onto Ukivok's Red-streamered
Islanders chopped away pressure ridges on sea ice
to smooth a 1,200-foot emergency strip. When
turbulent air prevented a landing, the pilot
dropped supplies from 1,000 feet. Some, falling
on floes, drifted to sea. At the time of Rie's
visit, only three airplane landings had ever been
made on King Island.
King Island Fishermen Chisel Holes in Sea Ice;
with the Scoop They Remove Chips from Bitterly
Bits of bright toothbrush handles serve as lures
for bullheads. Barbless hooks permit mittened
fishermen to remove catches without exposing
fingers to the cold. Crabs, clutching bait on
hookless lines, must be pulled up gently; they let
go if they touch the sides of the hole.
After the Exciting Walrus Shoot
Comes the Tiresome Task of Butchering
Walrus, shot in mass attacks as they ride north on
ice pans, provide King Islanders with hides, meat,
and ivory. Here two animals are stretched on the
ice, another is rope-anchored, and a 200-pound
calf is dragged half out of water.
An Eskimo Woman Splits Walrus Hide with
Steady Hand and Sharp Knife
skins cover umiaks, the Eskimos' big canoes; the
inner layer goes into roofing. Only old hands are
trusted with the delicate splitting job. This
mother has had glasses fitted in Nome. Dogs and
sleds have already hauled away the walrus meat.
Time Only Small Bullheads Were Caught in the
Hole Made with Chisel and Scoop
sisters, this islander wears a gay cover over her reindeer-skin
parka. Mukluks, her ornamented sealskin boots, are waterproof for
the Hunters Return with Tons of Walrus Meat,
Wives Get Busy Cleaning the Skins
strewing the ice must be fleshed and split. Meat and blubber are
stored in a cave, a natural home freezer. Here children lie on a
rock and watch the excitement. An umiak frame awaits a
walrus-hide cover. Gasoline for outboard motors is stored in the
Women Pare Blubber from Sealskins, Hungry Dogs
Stand Watch to Gobble Any Morsel Thrown Aside
flesh skins with the ulu, a broad steel blade shaped like a
wedge of pie. Their splitting boards are heirlooms, generations
old. This skin will be converted into soft, water-resistant
boots; the carcass will be eaten; the oil will be burned in lamps.
Nine-year-old Girls Take Baby Sisters Pickaback for an Airing
wintering on King Island, they have returned to Nome, where their
parents carve walrus ivory for sale to travelers. Most islanders
own temporary homes just outside Nome in a settlement nicknamed
"King Island Village."
Boys, and Men Drag Home a 300-pound
Bearded Seal Shot on the Ice
when the first ice forms. Most big bearded seals are caught late
in the season. Their hides provide leather for boots and kayak
covers; intestines are converted into waterproof parka covers.
Villagers Returning from a Seal Hunt
Unload Gear and Turn Over Boats
hunter in Ukivok went on winter sealing expeditions; almost every
man bagged one or two. Rie Munoz and her husband taught in the
big white school in the center. Ukivok's church perches at upper
right. Household waste smudges the snow below the stilt-legged
houses. Fresh water comes from clean surfaces higher on the
cliff. Offshore ice served as a baseball field for boys.
Hunters Bag a Rare Prize, a Beluga, or White Whale
Islanders harpooned only one or two whales in a season. they eat
the savory skin and a layer of blubber. Lean meat they feed to
the dogs. The Arctic Ocean's white whales migrate as far south as
Cook Inlet. Only adults are entirely white; newborn calves are
Woman's Teeth Worn
From Chewing Sealskins
sealskins for soft footwear has worn this woman's teeth nearly to
the gums. Following the birth of her first child, blue lines were
tattooed on her chin. Today, the custom is no longer practiced.