Iñupiaq Elder Eugene Brower Talks About Growing Up Hunting for the Bowhead Whale

Video Shot in: 2009

Eugene Brower shares his experiences as a harpooner during his whaling days. At the age of 27, after 19 years of experience, Eugene became a harpooner. He recalls his first harpooning attempt, where he mistakenly threw the harpoon like a javelin, missing the whale entirely. This frustrated his father, who left in silence and returned hours later with a wooden post. Eugene’s father crafted a new harpoon handle by attaching the brass portion of the harpoon to the post and securing it with a small nail. After reloading the harpoon, Eugene tested its weight and found it to be heavy but satisfactory. Another whale surfaced in front of them, and Eugene, using all his strength, successfully struck it with the improved harpoon. The harpoon penetrated and immobilized the whale. Overjoyed by his first successful strike, Eugene and the crew tightly secured the whale and paddled back to shore. His father, impressed by the accomplishment, advised him that he didn’t need to throw the harpoon as forcefully next time. Eugene reflects on the exhilaration and sense of achievement he felt in that moment, as he had struck his first whale and experienced an indescribable rush of emotions.