A Message from the Elders: On Sharing

women conduct seal party
Women conduct a seal party, in which a young man’s first bearded seal is distributed – Tununak. 
Photo credit: James Barker

This sharing of food has always been a part of our value system. We believe that if we do not share with others, the food that is given us by our Creator will no longer be available. The more we give away, the more will come back.4 From “Atlas Qissunaq” – Chevak Traditional Council

…When one goes down to the ocean and brings back a sea mammal, his wife divides it all up and, when done, calls all her neighbors out there to come take enough for a meal. She gives it all away. That is how coastal people are. Food and everything that can be divided is given to those one thinks about. They say that it will be replaced by more. They say because of the overwhelming gratitude they felt, they push the animals toward the hunter. That is why some say, “Anirtaqulluk, amllenminek cimingeciqvalria [Anirtaqulluk, it will be replaced by more than was given].5 Frank Andrew, Sr.—Kwigillingok

If it’s our first catch, we give everything away to the elders and the people. Back in the day they would bring the liver to the elders in the sod houses, put on a stick. If it is somebody’s first catch, somebody would sit with him while he tells the story to the old men in the sod houses. So those are Cup’ig customs that they don’t practice any more, but giving away still exists.6 John Pingayak—Chevak

What we catch we share with elders and these young people they share with somebody that didn’t catch one. They go up that way and around here. Around here when somebody goes hunting you know who they are, when they catch they share with us. And when we catch we share with them.7 Gordon Westlock—Emmonak

When you first catch, you give it away too, to elders. Even now, though it’s not my first catch, I like to give to others that are less fortunate. Elders and people that can’t go out, I try to fill their freezers with my own maklaks [bearded seal].8 Stuart Olrun—Mekoryuk

More messages from the elders:
On sharing
On gratitude and respect

Last Updated: 
Thu, 01/21/2016