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Each June, the Inupiat community of Barrow, Alaska, kicks off the summer with a harvest festival called Nalukataq.

This annual ceremonial feast is as full of fun as it is reverence. There's singing and dancing and blanket-tossing and plenty of muktuk (fried whale blubber) and other traditional foods, sandwiched between solemn moments of prayer and reflection. People of every age and gender participate, celebrating their culture and showing their appreciation for the hard work that got them through another frigid winter.

But mostly, the festival is about their beloved bowhead whales.


Walrus-skin trampolines at Nalukataq. All GIFs via EchoSpaces/YouTube.

Barrow is the northernmost town in the United States. Which means that everything from Oreos to toilet paper has to be airlifted in.

Even the most well-stocked supermarkets, which do exist, still need to mark up all their merchandise in order to cover the costs of getting things on the shelves in the first place. As a result, the cost of living there is astronomical, even by today's standards.

Put another way: It's actually easier to get a bunch of people from Barrow together to hunt a whale than it is to buy a box of cereal. After all, a single 90-ton bowhead whale can provide a lot of things for a lot of people, if you know how to put all the parts to good use — which the Inupiat community certainly does.

Just a quick bite of muktuk.

The prospect of whaling might not sound ideal. But it's actually been a staple of the Inupiat culture and diet for more than two millennium.

They're not just tracking and killing these majestic leviathans for fun either; they're doing it because it's a necessary part of their lives.

And that's where the religious aspects of the Nalukataq celebration come into play. The Inupiat see the whale as something sacred, and the festival is their way of giving thanks to these mighty creatures.

"Our people are out on the ice providing the nutritious food from the bowhead whale," explained Inupiat activist Rosemary Ahtuangaruak in an interview with The Guardian. "We cannot replace those foods in our diet — not from shop foods out of a box."

An Inupiat whaler from a family of captains.

In fact, there's a special concession in U.S. law that allows for 50 whales to be hunted each year between all of the Inupiat communities — but absolutely none by commercial whalers.

Again: No one is particularly excited about killing any more of these gargantuan sea mammals. We've all seen the "Save the Whales!" campaigns. But those are more of a response to the commercial whaling industry, which was so eager to profit off the slaughter of these beautiful beasts that it drove the population nearly to extinction in just a few hundred years.

By contrast, the Inupiat found a way to make whaling into a sustainable and sacrosanct practice that allowed the whale population to thrive for thousands of years while also providing necessary food and supplies for their people. And that was long before the U.S. government came along to regulate it, too.


Mmmmm. Muktuk.

It's certainly important to protect the whales. But we would also endanger the Inupiat if we completely took away their livelihood — and they're already in enough danger as it is.

A full 25% of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives live in poverty, which means those marked-up grocery store prices in places like Barrow are just the even-more-frustrating icing on the hardship cake. Without their cherished whaling rituals, they'd have even less access to the food and clothing that they need to make it through the hardest seasons.

Oh, and just to make things even worse, a little thing called climate change is now threatening their ability to provide for themselves as well. Rising temperatures and the influx of industrial oil drilling are threatening to disrupt the migratory patterns of whales and other Arctic animals, too. In fact, there are even some Alaskan communities whose towns are actually melting away thanks in no small part to companies like Shell and oil drilling.

"The ecosystem renewal, which is needed for the many different animals that migrate here, is important because we are feeding our families from the ocean. We must keep this environment pristine," explained Rosemary Ahtuangaruak.


C'mon, that's adorable. You don't want to see that kid get hurt, do ya?

While this is about protecting the whales, it's also about cultural preservation and having respect for all living creatures.

Before we go scolding anyone for killing whales, let's consider the fact that conditions for some Indigenous communities are really bad. So the least we can do is help to preserve one of the few thriving communities left. After all, we're the ones who started this whole environmental mess — so it's up to us to get ourselves out of it, and that includes helping out the people who are suffering the brunt of it.

If you're interested in learning more about the Inupait, here's a wonderful look at the annual Nalukataq whaling festival:

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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