Point Barrow, Alaska, USA
gather% / fish % / hunt %
fat % / protein % / carb%
A rough estimate to help us understand how carnivorous and how ketogenic these people were before being exposed to western civilization
Click this Slide deck Gallery to see high quality images of the tribe, daily life, diet, hunting and gathering or recipes
About the Tribe
A trip to the arctic with Uncle Sam - 1921 documentary - no sound - great footage of skinny/healthy Eskimos.
[Netsilik Eskimo] Stalking a Seal On Spring Ice- Part 1 This short documentary on the Netsilik Inuit depicts life in an Inuit camp on the shore of Pelly Bay in early summer. A hunter catches a seal and drags it back to camp, where he and his wife cut it up. There is a use for everything--blubber, hide, fur, even the intestines.
Tuktu- 1- His Nice New Clothes (making clothes from animal skins) The Big Kayak, The Clever Hands, The Snow Palace, The Indoor Games, Trials of Strength, The Ten Thousand Fishes (how to fish with a rock weir), The Magic Bow (inuit hunting with bow and arrow), The Magic Spear (Amazing inuit skills), The Caribou Hunt with traditional hunting techniques, The Big Seal, His Eskimo Dogs, His Animal Friends
Importance of Animal Products
Food is the center of Inuit culture and takes years of education to learn how to obtain and prepare . Many points have to be included when considering our foods – the passage of our Indigenous Knowledge1 , physical, mental and regulatory accessibility to foods, weather conditions, timing of gathering and preparation, funding for equipment and fuel, sharing, language, social networks, and respect are just a few (ICC Alaska. 2015). Our foods, recipes – are a connection from past to present . As one of the authors points out, it is not possible to sum up all that is involved in food preparation in a single recipe . However, we hope the below recipes (our Indigenous Knowledge) will provide you with a sense of our niqipiaq/neqpiat (real food: Inupiaq/Yup’ik). Referred to as Inuit internationally, Iñupiat, Saint Lawrence Island Yup’ik, Yup’ik and Cup’ik make up four Inuit regions within Alaska (see figure 1). A recipe has been provided from each of these regions, by Eilene Adams (North Slope), Cyrus Harris (Northwest Arctic), Sandy and Marjorie Tahbone (Bering Strait) and Sonita Cleveland (YukonKuskokwim).
TUTTU (CARIBOU) SOUP By Eilene Adams, Barrow, Alaska
Tuttu soup is a favorite dish of all ages . People have been eating Tuttu soup for as long as we know . We all grew up eating Aaka’s (grandma’s) Tuttu soup daily – whenever caribou is available . We like to hunt caribou in the fall, when they have more fat . Caribou brings both physical and mental health to our people – we have learned to use all parts of the caribou for survival . This is part of our value system and how we respect our environment . All parts of the caribou are used for food, clothing and tools . Antlers are used to make tools, sinew is used to make boots and even as dental floss, the stomach lining is used to waterproof boots, gloves and other clothing items . Today we include ingredients that are bought from the store, such as flour. But it does not have to be made with flour and at one time no one used flour.
Ingredients: Caribou meat (brisket and hind quarter are preferable, but any caribou meat will work), 1 cup of rice, ½ cup of flour, one onion. Boil caribou meat until tender - add rice, onion and cook for about ten minutes . Next add flour and cook another ten minutes. Some people like to also add noodles, potatoes, carrots or other vegetables.
MIPKUQ (BLACK MEAT IN SEAL OIL) – «IÑUPIAT SOUL FOOD» Provided by Cyrus «Naunġaq» Harris, Maniilaq Association
Mipkuq is dried ugruk (bearded seal) meat preserved in seal oil, and for thousands of years it has been essential to the diet of Iñupiat. Mipkuq perfectly suits the Arctic region. It provides a source of energy-dense lean protein, packed with heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and has a long shelf life that provides Iñupiat nourishment throughout the harsh winter or, in the early days, when other foods were not readily available. In the summer, when land fast ice is gone and there are offshore ice floes,teams of hunters harvest several adult ugruk on the sea ice and bring them back to camp. Adult ugruk grow 7–8 feet (2.0–2.5 m) in length and weigh 575–800 pounds (260–360 kg), which requires teamwork to transport and process. Delicious, nutritious and energy-dense, Mipkuq is highly sought after and present at nearly every meal and shared or traded with friends and extended family. It is used as a side dish, dipping sauce, or ingredient for other types of niqipaq (real food). In addition to physically sustaining Iñupiat people, Mipkuq also sustains Iñupiat spirituality. Traditional Iñupiat stories have called for the hunter to fill their mouth with seawater, which is then transferred into the mouth of the captured ugruk to return their spirit back to the wild. This practice was said to bring good fortune in future ugruk harvests for generations to come. It is also customary to give the season’s first catch to an elder as a sign of respect and gratitude. This reflects the Iñupiat Ilitqusiat (values) and sense of community associated with preparing, sharing, and consuming niqipaq foods such as Mipkuq.
MIPKUQ (BLACK MEAT IN SEAL OIL)
Ingredients: • Front straps, back straps and blubber from one adult ugruk Equipment: • Knives/Ulu/Gaffe • Flat cutting board (for butchering the ugruk) • Iññisaq (meat drying rack) • Qavrak board (a board for separating blubber from skin) • 30 gallon rendering bucket • Breathable cover for rendering bucket (game bag, cheesecloth, etc.) • 4 ft. debarked spruce stirring stick • Pot (for boiling meat) • 5 gallon buckets for Mipkuq storage Harvest, gut, and rinse the ugruk. Once the cleaned ugruk is hauled to camp, place it on a flat cutting board and remove the skin/blubber from around the seal meat. Let the skin/ blubber lay out on the cutting board overnight to dry. Carefully trim any additional meat attached to the blubber so that the blubber is clean. Separate the blubber from the skin (qavrak) using the qavrak board, and cut blubber into 1” x 3” looped strips. Trim and discard low quality blubber where blood has soaked into the blubber. Place good quality blubber strips in the 30 gallon rendering bucket, and cover with a breathable covering to allow for air exchange and to protect from insects. Closely monitor and stir the blubber/oil at least two times per day and let the oil render at ambient outdoor Arctic temperatures (~ 60o F or 16o C) in a protected area away from dust and rain. Oil rendering times can vary, with an approximate rendering time between one to two weeks. In the old days, blubber strips would traditionally be rendered within the intact sealskin hide called a seal ‘poke’. The black meat is made from the seal front and back straps. To prepare the black meat, hang the harvested ugruk meat to dry in the iññisaq for two to three days. This allows the meat to form a dry outer layer and develop a black color that indicates a taste that is not overly «gamey» or «fishy». The back straps are then filleted into an approximately 1/2” thick continuous blanket of meat and hung in the iññisaq to dry. Each day throughout the Mipkuq making process, the back strap meat blanket is monitored and turned over daily. For the front straps, after the initial 2-3 day drying period, they are cut into long 1” thick strips and hung back up to dry. Once the front strap strips reach 50% dryness, those strips are boiled in a large pot of water for approximately 15 minutes. After cooking, re-hang the cooked front strap strips in the iññisaq to dry for several more days. Once the cooked front strap strips and back straps have dried sufficiently, remove the black meat from the iññisaq and cut it into serving size portions (about 4 inches in length). Evenly distribute the black meat portions among 5 gallon buckets filled with the freshly rendered seal oil. The fresh Mipkuq is stored in a siġḷuaq, or underground cooler, for 3-7 days to give the black meat time to absorb the oil. Once the Mipkuq is good, it is stored in the freezer. The last step in the process is to feed your Iñupiat soul and enjoy your fresh Mipkuq with family, friends, and community members! The Maniilaq Association is currently working on a collaborative project to establish a regulatory approved process to make Mipkuq and routinely serve it to elders at our long-term care center.
THE BEAUTIFULLY SIMPLE WAY TO PREPARE UGRUK (BEARDED SEAL) By Sandy and Marjorie Tahbone, Nome, Alaska
It is rare (this day and age) that I will get fresh seal meat other than in spring; which is the time when many seals are harvested in our community and the majority of the meat is dried and stored in seal oil with rendered blubber. And having fresh boiled seal meat, blubber, and intestines is mouth-watering and I look forward to preparing this dish every spring. It is rather difficult, for me to explain how to cook native food. It is not like you can go to the store and pick up a few pounds of meat and intestines and they are ready to cook. If this were the case, I would say perhaps for 4 servings you would need 4 pounds of rib meat for boiling, 2 pounds of blubber, and a yard of guts! Knowledge gained through years of processing is hard, for me, to pass on in written form and trying to do it using very few words makes it more difficult. I have given directions for a person who has knowledge about processing bearded seal. Ingredients: Seal meat, Seal blubber, Seal Intestines, Onion, Potatoes (optional), Salt, Water This dish is prepared by slowly or gently boiling the meat, blubber, and intestines. The meat does not take that long to cook and is preferred medium to rare, but is okay to cook well done; so you will remove meat when done and continue cooking the blubber and intestines. The portions depend on how many people you are going to feed, so you will need to use your own judgment and common sense by adding more or less of the ingredients. When I am processing bearded seal in the spring for dry meat I dry the meat with no blubber on the meat taking the time to get every bit of fat off the meat before I hang it for drying; and save the meat that is hard to remove fat for cooking (the flap of meat that covers the ribs). I also save the ribs for cooking as well, especially if the seal is young and fat runs through the rib meat and is not good for drying. I prepare the intestines for cooking by first running water through the entire intestine for the initial cleaning then cutting them into two foot sections and turning them inside out for final cleaning. After the intestines are cleaned I cut them into 6-8 inch pieces for cooking. Prepare the blubber by removing it from the hide and if the blubber has been exposed to air for a time you will need to remove the top and cut it into 1-inch wide and 6-inch long sections for cooking. Cooking time for bearded seal meat is short not like cooking walrus. You can either use fresh or frozen seal meat, blubber and intestines. Prepare seal meat, blubber, and intestines as described above. Chop onions and quarter the potatoes. Put all ingredients in a pot and cover with water. Boil slowly, taking the meat out when desired rare/medium/etc. Continue cooking until the potatoes are cooked (fork tender). Take everything out of the pot and put on a serving platter. Serve the broth in cups and enjoy with some fresh spring greens in seal oil.
TUNUQ (ANIMAL FAT) AKUTAQ By Sonita Cleveland, Quinhagak, Alaska There are many ways to make akutaq. My favorite is tunuq akutaq because it is something different and provides a gamey taste that other types of akutaq do not. We eat it often and many grow up eating different types of akutaq. I watched my grandma make akutaq and she taught me how to make it. As my grandma taught me she always told me food shouldn’t be wasted: if we have it, it should be eaten. Now when I make it, it is like I am not doing it by myself. My entire family likes tunuq akutaq and so we eat it often. We mostly make tunuq akutaq around the fall when we go moose hunting. If there is enough fat, we store it to make food, such as akutaq. Making tunuq akutaq begins with rendering the tunuq. When we first get the moose or caribou or reindeer, we cut the pieces of moose or reindeer fat into small chunks, and we lay them across a baking sheet or cake sheet and bake for 2 to 3 hours at around 250 F, until it is rendered. When it is rendered, we take it out and pour it into another baking sheet and let that harden. Then we break it into chunks with an uluaq and freeze them and wrap them in foil, saran wrap, or ziploc bags and put in the freezer. When it is time to make akutaq the tunuq is taken from the freezer and melted or if the tunuq is fresh, we can render some to use. Some people melt the tunuq in a frying pan. I don’t like the slightly burnt taste it that a frying pan gives and so we put chunks of fat in a big cake pan and bake it on a low heat for a few hours. From spring to fall, we collect different berries to store. For this recipe, we often use blackberries or cranberries. Every time we want tunuq akutaq, we just take some berries and tunuq out of the freezer. Ingredients: 1 cup sugar – melted 1 ½ Crisco 1 ½ tunuq 3 cups of berries I like to use equal amounts of Crisco and rendered fat, a hand full sugar, and berries. First, whip up the sugar and Crisco until it is blended by hand, pour in the melted rendered tunuq and keep mixing. Lastly, add the berries. While mixing all of the ingredients together, the akutaq begins to stiffen – this is when it is ready to eat. Sometimes people put in white fish. We boil the white fish first, take bones out, lay it across a cookie sheet – or just use it. Chum salmon or halibut is sometimes used in place of whitefish. Many people today make akutaq with only Crisco although this was not the case long ago, as people did use Crisco or sugar. I prefer tunuq akutaq over Crisco akutaq because it keeps us full and has a better flavor. Akutaq is nutritious, despite the Crisco – these are natural oils and it is our organic food. When going out to get wood or fish, grandma always told me to taquaq (take food with) such as dried fish and akutaq to keep you warm, full, and to have energy. The older people we invite, like the elders, really like it when we make them tunuq akutaq. It is a rare treat for them and many say, ‘I remember my mom making this when I was younger.’ I know by eating it, it will give them memories of when they were younger. I am named after my grandma’s mom. When my uncle had the akutaq that my grandma had taught me to make, he said, ‘you take after your name sake.’ This is part of our knowledge passing through our generations. Unfortunately, many of the younger generation do not know how to make tunuq akutaq. As I get older, I will teach the younger generations.
In his primitive state he has provided an example of physical excellence and dental perfection such as has seldom been excelled by any race in the past or present. We are concerned to know the secret of this great achievement since his circumscribed life greatly reduces the factors that may enter as controlling units in molding this excellence. While we are primarily concerned in this study with the characteristics of the Eskimo dentition and facial form and the effect upon it of his contact with modern civilization, we are also deeply concerned to know the formula of his nutrition in order that we may learn from it the secrets that will not only aid the unfortunate modern or so-called civilized races, but will also, if possible, provide means for assisting in their preservation.
Weston Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1939)
We are particularly concerned with the foods used by these primitive Eskimos. They almost always have their homes on or near deep water. Their skill in handling their kayaks is most remarkable. During the salmon running season they store large quantities of dried salmon. They spear many of these fish from their kayaks; even young boys are very skillful. They land salmon so large that they can hardly lift them. They are expert in spearing seals from these light crafts. Seal oil provides a very important part of their nutrition. As each piece of fish is broken off, it is dipped in seal oil. I obtained some seal oil from them and brought it to my laboratory for analyzing for its vitamin content. It proved to be one of the richest foods in vitamin A that I have found.
The fish are hung on racks in the wind for drying. Fish eggs are also spread out to dry, as shown in Fig. 13. These foods constitute a very important part of the nutrition of the small children after they are weaned. Naturally, the drifting sands of the bleak Bering Straits lodge upon and cling to the moist surfaces of the fish that are hung up to dry. This constitutes the principal cause for the excessive wear of the Eskimos’ teeth in both men and women.
The food of these Eskimos in their native state includes caribou, ground nuts which are gathered by mice and stored in caches, kelp which is gathered in season and stored for winter use, berries including cranberries which are preserved by freezing, blossoms of flowers preserved in seal oil, sorrel grass preserved in seal oil, and quantities of frozen fish. Another important food factor consists of the organs of the large animals of the sea, including certain layers of the skin of one of the species of whale, which has been found to be very high in vitamin C.
Vilhjalmur Stefansson, The Fat of the Land (1956, originally published in 1946)
If inexperienced in primitive cultures, one is likely to misinterpret general statements about food. I might tell you, correctly, that the chief food of a certain group of Eskimos with whom I lived was caribou meat, with perhaps 30 per cent fish, 10 per cent seal meat, and 5 or 10 per cent made up of polar bear, rabbits, birds, and eggs. This might lead one to visualize meals where there would be a fish course followed by a meat course, and where we would breakfast at least occasionally on eggs. Such is most unlikely to be the rase, with primitive peoples. If 50 per cent of the year’s food is caribou meat, the primitive likely eats practically nothing, but caribou during approximately half the year, seldom tasting this meat the rest of the twelve months. His fish percentages will come in similarly restricted periods, and they are likely to be fish exclusively. The eggs, far from being breakfasts distributed through several months, would be occasional days of nothing but eggs during only one month of the year, in the spring.
“Esquimo Teeth Prove Health of Meat Diet,” The Harvard Crimson (1929)
By means of some 90 models of Eskimo teeth, Dr. Adelbert Fernald, Curator of the Harvard Dental School Museum, has proved that eating a strictly meat diet is the ideal way in which to keep the human mouth in a healthy condition, and that it is due to the fact that civilized people do not eat enough meat that they as a rule have decayed teeth.
Commander Donald B. MacMillan, the noted Arctic explorer, obtained about 90 impressions of the teeth of the Eskimos of Smith Sound, “the meat eaters,” who live the farthest north of any human beings. He did this at the request of Dr. Fernald, who desired the models for the Dental School Museum. The impressions were made on one of MacMillan’s most recent Artic expeditions. From the impressions, models have been constructed. Commander MacMillan said that “the Smith Sound Eskimos average about four ounces of vegetable matter each year per capita.”
Only one tooth of the 616 contained in the models is deformed. All the models represent mouths and teeth wonderfully developed. A more definite proof of the efficacy of a meat diet in maintaining healthful teeth could not be desired.
Out of the 616 teeth only seven are missing, while Dr. Fernald states that of the same number of teeth in the mouths of New England people, he would expect to find more than 100 missing.
In connection with the securing of the Eskimo teeth models from Commander MacMillan, Dr. Fernald arranged with Professor Hooton of the Peabody Museum at Harvard to secure impressions of the teeth of Yucatan natives during a southern expedition. These people are famous as vegetable eaters. Most of them eat no meat whatever. It was found that their teeth were very much decayed. At a surprisingly early age, their teeth lost all semblance of even a normally healthy condition, and most of them, when middle aged, had practically no teeth, whatever. It has been the experience of most dentists that those people who have the healthiest teeth are those who eat the most meat, which points to the same conclusion as Dr. Fernald’s researches.
Many of the models of the Eskimo teeth are perfect in every way, not having the slightest defect either of form or condition. Dr. Fernald states that is the 32 years of his dental practice he has seen only one set of teeth which were perfect in every respect.
Dr. Fernald says “Studying the models of these peoples’ mouth in the interest of anthropology and ethnology, as well as from an orthodontic standpoint. I consider extremely valuable, as much more data, can be obtained from models of a living person than from skulls. For instance, if the models show that the gums are apparently firm and tight around the teeth and have not receded that alone indicates to some extent a healthy mouth. From the fact that the arches are so even and well developed I should say that these people with so large arches are not mouth breathers, and therefore are not suffering from adenoids, enlarged tousils, and so forth.
Importance of Plants
The Eskimo situation varies from ours still more when it comes to vegetables. In the Mackenzie district these were eaten under three conditions:
(1) The chief occasion for vegetables here, as with most Eskimos, was a famine. There were several kinds of vegetable things known to be edible and they were resorted to in a definite succession, as prejudices were overborne by the pangs of hunger. (True famines seldom, if ever, occurred in the Mackenzie, but small groups would get short of food through some accident and then famine practice in eating would result).
(2) Some vegetable foods were eaten because the Mackenzie River people liked them. These were chiefly berries; and among berries chiefly the salmon berry or cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). The Mackenzie River people ate these only during the season; but in Western Alaska, and elsewhere, berries and some other vegetable foods were preserved in oil for winter use—sometimes as delicacies, sometimes to guard against famine, and no doubt frequently with a mixture of both motives.
(3) One form of vegetable dish is eaten strictly in connection with another that is non-vegetable—the moss, “twigs and grass from a caribou’s stomach are used as a base for oil. In my experience the commonest reason for this use was that someone from a distance arrived with a bag of oil that was either in a particularly delectable state of fermentation (corresponding to Camembert cheese that is just soft enough), or else this was an oil from a favored animal not common in the district, say white whale brought into a sealing community."
Commander MacMillan said that “the Smith Sound Eskimos average about four ounces of vegetable matter each year per capita.”
Transition to Industrialized Food Products
Many people today make akutaq with only Crisco although this was not the case long ago, as people did use Crisco or sugar. I prefer tunuq akutaq over Crisco akutaq because it keeps us full and has a better flavor. Akutaq is nutritious, despite the Crisco – these are natural oils and it is our organic food. When going out to get wood or fish, grandma always told me to taquaq (take food with) such as dried fish and akutaq to keep you warm, full, and to have energy. The older people we invite, like the elders, really like it when we make them tunuq akutaq. It is a rare treat for them and many say, ‘I remember my mom making this when I was younger.’