Surprise bounty for Tyonek

[lightbox link=”” thumb=”×279.jpg” width=”300″ align=”left” title=”Tyonek whale harvest crew” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=”The crew of Tyonek shareholders that helped harvest the beluga whale at Bird Creek. Courtesy of Connie Downing, Village of Tyonek.“]

It took a quick game of telephone tag – a call from Barbara Mahoney of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the Native Village of Tyonek’s President Al Goozmer, then a call from Goozmer to Connie J. Downing, Tyonek’s Director of lands and operations – but on Sept. 8, residents of Tyonek trucked out to Bird Creek, south of Anchorage, to harvest a Beluga whale that had become stranded.

Upon hearing from NOAA, Downing quickly assembled a crew of Tyonek shareholders, who traveled to the site. Led by CIRI Shareholder Anthony Chuitt, the group harvested the beluga, dividing and bagging the meat and blubber. Several bags were Stored in a chest freezer at the Tebughna Foundation, then distributed to Tyonek households, an effort headed up by CIRI shareholder Demaris Hudson.

Known as the Beach People, the people of Tyonek have, for many generations, relied upon the fish and sea mammals provided by cook Inlet.

“It has been difficult for the community, with the decline of belugas, to get the meat and blubber, which were main staples in tyonek homes,” said Downing. “Tyonek people appreciate any opportunity they are given to harvest a beluga.”