'No whale, no music': Iñupiaq drumming and global warming

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36 Scopus citations


This article explores how climate change has recently influenced the Iupiaq cultural identity as the people of the whales. Their traditional whaling cycle reveals strong indivisibility of music, emotions, and place based human identity. To illustrate such integrity of the Iupiat and their culturally critical bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), a search was made for specific ways in which climate change influences Iupiaq spiritual and physical ties with the whale in relation to traditional music making. Traditionally, the Iupiat say that it is the whale who brings them music, thus no whale harvest means no music production. However, when the environment is less predictable, the homeland eroded, place based songs gone, and human-whale integrity threatened, how specifically are these changes manifested in the Iupiat-whale relationship? Providing detailed descriptions of 2005-2006 nalukataq (midsummer whale feasts), this article examines how contemporary Iupiat respond to environmental changes in the emotional and cultural dimensions through their music making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-303
Number of pages15
JournalPolar Record
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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