Monday, July 10, 2017

Stone Cold Survivalists

National Geographic

   Meet the Hailstone family of Noorvik, Alaska and the National Geographic television show, "Life Below Zero." Each day, Chip, Agnes and their seven children live off the land around them and craft the remains of animals for trade, which supports the lifestyle of Inupiaq Eskimos (Agnes' heritage). From a young age, the Hailstone daughters were taught how to safely and efficiently operate hunting rifles, spot which caribou are pregnant to leave alive for the next season, and successfully skin each animal they kill. As an Alaskan, utilizing the entire prey is vital for survival and the family's business, such as when the oils of an animal's brain are used to clean knives and shine boots. 

   In the video above, the Hailstones hunt a gray wolf, which is one of the most valuable pelts that can be sold on the fur trade. Agnes discusses the importance of "freeing the soul" of the animal, paying homage to both the wolf who gave its life, as well as her Eskimo ancestors. 

   Eskimo men and women equally participate in the same hunting activities, which abandons domesticity in women. Subsistence living in weather often 40 degrees below zero teaches young Alaskan women like the Hailstone daughters to respect the land and creatures around them while preparing for the most difficult season: winter. Stocking the freezer and watching for the tracks of predators are the daily activities that the family experiences during the months before winter. The personal journey that each girl makes to successfully shoot large animals, catch and gut fish and sell their creations is similar to the book "Julie of the Wolves," where a young Eskimo befriends a pack of wolves and survives in the brutal cold. 

  Although the Hailstone women spend each day outside overcoming challenges, they still keep in touch with their feminine side by wearing their favorite accessory besides a gun: nail polish. 

Alaska Outdoors Forums