North

Inupiaq woman fears potential Alaskan oil spill could threaten food

One Alaskan Inupiaq woman says she's worried an oil spill from Shell's planned Arctic drilling operation in the Chukchi Sea could destroy fishing and whaling grounds, cutting off the supply of traditional foods.

'We rely on the bowhead whale or the white whale,' says May Hank

An Alaskan Inupiaq woman says she's worried an oil spill from Shell's planned Arctic drilling operation in the Chukchi Sea could destroy fishing and whaling grounds. 

The U.S. government upheld the oil company's lease last week, and while further review of Shell's drilling plan is needed, the company could begin drilling off the northwest Alaskan coast in July.

Mae Hank, an Inupiaq woman living in Point Hope, Alaska, is worried a spill could ruin her supply of traditional food.

"We rely on the bowhead whale or the white whale, and I depend on my traditional food," she said. 

"When I was unemployed, I always made sure I had a freezer full of traditional food. We are ocean people. We are surrounded by the ocean from the north, the west and the south."

Hank also worries an oil spill could devastate Inuit communities in Canada.

That puts her in some tension with her community. 

Local Inupiat corporations, such as the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, support Shell's plans.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now