The Inupiat Eskimos have called Kotzebue, Alaska home for centuries. Nearly 60% of the Inupiat diet consists of marine mammals from the Arctic Ocean, and marine life is fundamentally important to other aspects of their culture also.
It is what lies under the ocean floor, oil, which has the Inupiat people concerned and conflicted. The Inupiat people fear that an accident, like the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf coast in 2010, could jeopardize their entire way of life. However, the Inupiat also need the jobs and regional economic boost that would accompany offshore drilling.
Siikauraq Whiting, the mayor of Kotzebue, says, “To the rest of America, unless you come and eat our food, walk our land…unless you really know who we are as Inupiat people, then you can’t really appreciate that this is Inupiat life.”