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A young hunter moves past death threats from afar

The Apassingok family reflects on a formative kill of a whale and the social-media backlash.


In April 2017, Chris Apassingok, 16, harpooned a whale in the Bering Sea. The meat was distributed among the community in the remote village of Gambell, Alaska, and sent to family members in other parts of the state. He was considered a provider. Although his village celebrated his kill as a great success for such a young hunter, Apassingok was met with death threats from afar.

The feat was written up in the state’s newspaper, spreading the teenage whaler’s tale beyond his remote village. When activist Paul Watson read the story, he took his complaints about the hunt to Facebook. His followers subsequently sent Apassingok a slew of hate messages, some threatening his life. The young hunter, who was already reserved, became even more withdrawn during a formative time in his young-adulthood.

In this video, Apassingok’s family talks about what hunting means to their people and how integral it is for their survival. It ends with a celebration, hosted by his family, to show their appreciation for his innate hunting skills, which helped provide for their remote Alaska village. — Brooke Warren.

Read the feature story, “A teenage whaler’s tale,” here.