Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores
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Look at me, I’m Jonah! Inside the carcass of a beast bigger than most New York apartments. I’ve never walked around inside my lunch before. This thing is impressive. And what is most impressive is the smell. But then, I can’t imagine what I smell like inside.
Akootchook had taken us out by skiff to the pile of bones and blubber. And under the roof beams made by the rib cage, I attached wires to Etok for a formal on-camera interview inside the skeleton.
I was afraid that, like most people, once the camera is running, Etok would become a scaredy-cat, a weakling, all polite and National Geographic.
I opened the interview with what I thought was a reasonable question. “Etok, sir, I understand that you claim that drilling oil here endangers your tribe’s lifestyle. But it seems that your lifestyle is, basically, just killing endangered species and eating them. Why should U.S. and British consumers sup- port that?”
“LISTEN, YOU COCKSUCKING REDNECK COCKSUCKER, I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU FUCKING THINK OF OUR LIFE.”
Whoa, there! No one had ever called me “redneck” before. I tried it a different way. “Sir, you claim that the Natives ‘own’ this property. I brought this up with
Alaska Governor Hickel, who said, ‘Just because your great-uncle chased a moose across some wilderness doesn’t mean you own . . .’”
“I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU AND THAT COCKSUCKER HICKEL THINK ABOUT MY UNCLES AND WHO THE HELL GAVE IT TO THOSE BP COCK- SUCKERS. IT’S NOT YOURS. IT’S NOT YOUR COCKSUCKING BRITISH THIEVING PETROLEUM. COCKSUCKER.”
Director James had his head below his knees. It had been a long, expensive journey to get completely unusable film. I asked Etok if he might repeat the last answer with a couple less cocksuckers in it.
I started again, “Hickel said, just because your daddy . . .” “AND I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU AND FUCKING HICKEL AND YOU WHITE BASTARD KILLERS THINK. YOU NEVER OWNED THIS.”
Rick’s hands were freezing to the lens. He’d be leaving lots of skin on it, but he wouldn’t complain. The sun was turning red-orange on the ice and the whale was smelling even worse.
British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell have already purchased the con- cession for the oil under these whale bones from the U.S. Department of the Interior. How would Etok get around that?
“WHO THE FUCK IS THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR? YOU NEVER CONQUERED US, COCKSUCKER.”
Oh yes we did—in court. Etok’s uncle, claiming ownership of the minerals in Inupiat waters, sued the Department of the Interior in 1969. However, the federal government waved the sales receipt from the Russian Czar for all of Alaska. The judge bounced the Natives’ case out on its ass. Etok’s uncle then led a war party in a blockade of the Trans-Alaska Highway used in the pipe- line’s construction. The ice-road truckers simply drove around the Eskimo tollbooth.
The blood on the whale bones turned a darker red as the light dimmed. Etok expounded on Her Majesty’s relationship to Alaska and British Petroleum. He noted that the Queen of England had knighted the Governor of Alaska, “that cocksucker [Tony] Knowles,” after the Governor approved the BP seizure of half of the Prudhoe Bay oil field.
Ricardo, shooting from a distance as he strolled (and I slid) through the blubber, was gesturing to check if all was A-OK. Well, if our director’s suicide is OK, then, yes. We got back into Akootchook’s boat.