This thousands-year-old Alaskan whaling ritual still exists … but maybe not much longer.

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:

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."