My Barrow Necropsy Assistants

Here I am at the home of Joe and Mary Sage preparing to take measurements and assist with butchering two ringed seals and a very large bearded seal before I take the various internal organs back to the lab to examine and subsample.   Joe is the head of the Native Village of Barrow Wildlife Department.  He has spent a lot of time and energy mentoring younger family members and numerous youth in the Barrow community, stressing the importance of retaining traditional knowledge and subsistence hunting practices.

Here is a picture of Joe with various family members butchering the ugruk (Bearded Seal).  Inupiat children definitely grow up with a respect and appreciation for the animals that have fed and clothed their people for thousands of years and continue to do so.   These children grow up knowing where their food comes from-something that regretfully is less well understood by children in the Lower 48 because we do such an efficient job of feeding people, that fewer people are engaged in full-time crop and livestock production.  I realized just how far we are removed from the food chain when my son Joshua was stunned to learn that “Grandpa killed his cows?”  I honestly believe that children think King Soopers is where the meat they eat takes origin.   Here is a picture of Joe’s nephew, Ben Roy getting his first experience butchering a bearded seal.

I have also noticed that Inupiat children are fascinated by my job and love to watch me and imitate me.  These children started going through my field necropsy box and wanted to wear my disposable gloves.  I gave them some to wear-it was quite amusing to watch them snap them on their hands with the authority and confidence of a real surgeon.

Children on the North Slope also give new meaning to the phrase “Playing with Your Food”.  This little girl challenged me to see if I could jump over the seals like she did.

I have know doubt that when these children sat down with their family to eat seal later that evening they appreciated where their food came from and were grateful to the many marine mammals that have sustained their people for thousands of years!

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