Getting ready for the seal cutting contest.
NALUKATAQ (BLANKET TOSS)
Several walrus skins are used for this event. The skin has holes on the edges so that rope can be looped through all the way around and used for handle grips. One person gets in the middle of the skin and stands there while being tossed. With a good coordinated effort on behalf of the pullers, the person being tossed can get as high as thirty feet in the air and lands on his/her feet without falling down. This is quite similar to a trampoline, with the only difference being that people are the springs and they can move to catch an errant jumper.
The Nalukataq is done in the whaling communities in the spring if there has been a successful whaling season. It is been part of the whaling feast activity as long as people can remember.
There are two schools of thought as to why this sport is being done. One is for the simple exhilaration is provides, and the other is for spotting game over the horizon. The judges look at balance, height, movements in the air - sometimes you can see jumpers dancing or running in place - and all around form and grace when determining a winner. Sometimes, flips and somersaults are done to the delight of the pullers and spectators.
During Christmas, jumpers used to throw candy and other goodies from their height above the children.
After the blanket toss a dance group from Anatuvuk Pass performed. They were excellent and it made me want to join the Bethel Dance Group when I get back into Bethel. I especially loved the elders dancing.