Chie Sakakibara, assistant professor of environmental studies and East Asian studies, has published the book Whale Snow: Iñupiat, Climate Change, and Multispecies Resilience in Arctic Alaska (First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies) from the University of Arizona Press.
Whale Snow explores how Arctic climate change influences Indigenous society, and reflects upon Sakakibara’s ongoing collaborative endeavor with the Iñupiaq community of northern Alaska for nearly two decades. Sakakibara’s research and writing have been inspired and enabled by her collaboration and conversations with many Indigenous community partners, colleagues and students at Oberlin College & Conservatory as well as the support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Arctic Social Sciences Program, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, the Earth Institute and the Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University, in addition to Oberlin College Dean’s Office, Grants Office, Bonner Center, and Environmental Studies.
As a mythical creature, the whale has been responsible for many transformations in the world. It is an enchanting being that humans have long felt a connection to. In the contemporary environmental imagination, whales are charismatic megafauna feeding our environmentalism and aspirations for a better and more sustainable future.
Using multispecies ethnography, Whale Snow explores how everyday the relatedness of the Iñupiat of Arctic Alaska and the bowhead whale forms and transforms “the human” through their encounters with modernity. Whale Snow shows how the people live in the world that intersects with other beings, how these connections came into being, and, most importantly, how such intimate and intense relations help humans survive the social challenges incurred by climate change. In this time of ecological transition, exploring multispecies relatedness is crucial as it keeps social capacities to adapt relational, elastic, and resilient.
In the Arctic, climate, culture, and human resilience are connected through bowhead whaling. In Whale Snow we see how climate change disrupts this ancient practice and, in the process, affects a vital expression of Indigenous sovereignty. Ultimately, though, this book offers a story of hope grounded in multispecies resilience.
All royalties from the sale of this book will go directly to the North Slope Borough Iñupiat History, Language and Culture Commission.