Tales from Kali Camp, III of III

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Courtesy of Jennifer Stone, Associate Professor of English


Frozen Siksrik found while beachcombing at Kali Camp.

These stories describe my trip to Kali (aka Pt. Lay), Alaska in July 2013 through the Educator Cross-Cultural Immersion program from the Alaska Humanities Forum. The camp I attended focused on Iñupiaq land use values and language. My participating partner was Barbara Petukh of the Mat-Su School District. All of our interactions included a mix of English, including local expressions, and Iñupiaq-these stories attempt to capture the mixing of languages that I experienced at camp (I'm still a beginner, so please excuse any errors I've made in my spelling or grammar). The stories also illustrate many of the Iñupiaq cultural values that I learned about and participated in at camp, including knowledge of language, sharing, cooperation, hard work and respect for nature. Quyanaqpak!


Mitkutailak eggs

Finding mitḳutaiḷaḳ eggs while beachcoming at Kali Camp.

For many days, we were stuck in camp because the tide was out and the water was too shallow for the boats to travel safely. We spent our time beachcombing and hunting for tuttu, natchiq, and other animals. Because of the bugs, tuttu would travel to the water to get some relief. Natchiq came out of the water to rest on the beach.

We walked for miles during camp, picking up kigipigaq from the spines of various sea mammals, qabruq from various saltwater mollusks, tuugaaq from walrus tusks, edible plants, amber, and rocks. To be safe (and just in case we found some game), we always had someone carry a sippun.

We ran into all sorts of wildlife on our walks. One day we startled a little siksrik who had crawled out of its hole in the ground. It froze and pretended to be invisible. By mistake we happened upon a nesting ground for mitḳutaiḷaḳ, who ferociously dive-bombed us to protect their chicks.

On many occasions we found interesting objects that floated in from far away. Giant driftwood was everywhere, even though there are no trees in the area. I found a pot of Russian shoe polish. One of the teenagers even found a message in a bottle that floated to us on the tabiuq currents all the way from Iceland!


Finding Tuugaaq while beachcombing at Kali Camp.

Kigipigaq (backbone)

Mitḳutaiḷaḳ (arctic tern)

Natchiq (seal)

Qabruq (seashell)

Siksrik (squirrel)

Sippun (rifle)

Tabiuq (ocean)

Tuttu (caribou)

Tuugaaq (ivory)

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