World  
comments_image Comments

Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores

In his new book, journalist Greg Palast talks about his encounter with Etok, an Inupiat Alaskan fighting oil companies and their government backers.
 
 
Share
 
 
 
 

The following is an excerpt from Greg Palast's "Vultures' Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores." Click here to buy your copy.  AlterNet will publish part II of this excerpt tomorrow. 

There is a legend told among the Inupiat Alaskans who live above the Arctic Circle, “Etok Tames the Green People.” It goes like this: 

In the Old Days, as today, the peoples on the edge of the Arctic Sea killed whales. It’s just what they do. It’s what they eat. But the Green People didn’t like that, and so the Green People set out one day in their fancy-ass black powerboat to stop the people of the Arctic Sea from doing their whale killing thing.  

It was a long, long time ago in 1979. The elders tell us how the Green People showed up outside the Inupiat Native village of Kaktovik in their black powerboat and set out their stores of vegetables on the beach. The Green People only ate green food. The Green People then set off in their black powerboat on their blubber-saving mission, with a plan to block the Eskimo’s bidarka whaling ship. Quick as a Raven’s wink, they got lost in a fog bank and stuck in the ice sheet. Prepared, committed, and resourceful, the Green People set out their pup tents on the ice floe and slept, hoping for the fog to lift in the morning.

But they were not lost. The Inupiat of the Arctic Sea knew exactly where the Green People were. Etok, the great whale hunter, told his villagers to accept the gift of the Green People and take all their vegetables. Etok then told his people to be patient, and, elders say, they lit up some excellent weed, put on Bob Dylan tapes, and waited.

During the summer the sun never sets in the Inupiat land. It just rolls around the sky in a Circle. And under the gyrating sun, the Greens’ expensive boat, being black, absorbed the radiant heat, melted the ice holding it and drifted out into the endless Sea.

By three a.m., the wait was over, and the patient Eskimo leader told his people to go and retrieve the lost black boat, call the Coast Guard, and claim it as abandoned property.

In the morning, the Green People awoke, still in fog, and did not see their boat, their boat with their emergency radio and food. The Green People drifted on their block of ice, lost and doomed. Etok told his people not to move, that the Green People must “cry themselves out” and obtain the wisdom that comes with accepting your certain death by starvation, hypothermia, or polar bear.

The Inupiat of the Arctic Sea waited an entire day. Then another day and another day.

On the fourth day, Etok figured the Green People were now wise enough, hungry enough, and thirsty enough. He ordered his people to rescue them. “They are vegetarians,” the wise Etok explained to his people and ordered them to bring many buckets of mikiaq, fermented whale meat in congealed blood. The hungry Green People ate the whale, no longer giving a shit that it was some goddamned endangered species. The Inupiat told them it was not wise to enter the Native boats. The rescue party had brought along a filthy crude-oil barge for the frozen Green People to ride.

The Natives dumped the Green People at Dead Horse, where White People take petroleum from Prudhoe Bay. The Green People, whose lesson had been taught to them without their knowing, thanked the Inupiat for saving their lives. And from that day forward, Greenpeace protected the Natives’ right to kill whales as in the Old Days, and joined the Inupiat people in fighting their competitors, the commercial whalers or, as the Natives call them, “the fucking Japanese.”  

 
See more stories tagged with: