Native Alaskans in a Remote Whaling Community Are Shocked by a Shooting on the North Slope!

In a small Alaska Native whaling village above the Arctic Circle, a shooting that left two adults dead and two others seriously injured rocked the community. Parents were informed they could keep their kids home from school on Tuesday so they could give their loved ones hugs.

At Point Hope, a remote Inupiat whaling community on Alaska’s northwest coast that borders the Chukchi Sea, late Sunday afternoon, there was a shooting. An adult 16-year-old boy has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Guy Nashookpuk, the teenager, appeared in court by phone on Tuesday for the first time. When asked a question by Magistrate Judge Colleen Baxter, all he said was “Yes ma’am.”

A public defender was assigned to him, and the attorney entered not-guilty pleas on his behalf. Baxter set a preliminary hearing date of March 8 and set bail at $1 million. According to state law, minors 16 years of age and older may face murder charges in adult court.

When North Slope Borough police arrived at a Point Hope home at 11:35 p.m. on Sunday, they discovered a man and a woman dead and two more males injured, according to charging documents. According to one witness, the adolescent entered the house with a weapon and started shooting. Some stated they witnessed him escaping on a quad bike.

Alaska’s Desolate North Slope

Nine minutes later, according to court documents, the teen’s father took him to the police station while stating that “his son had told him that he did it.” According to the documents, the boy acknowledged to the shooting during an interrogation conducted in front of his parents. There was no explanation of the motivation.

Located on a triangular spit of land that juts into the Chukchi Sea, Point Hope is home to roughly 675 people. It is roughly 200 miles (322 kilometers) from Russia and 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage.

Inupiaq refers to the village as Tikigaq, and it is arranged in a treeless grid around the school known as the “Home of the Harpooners,” Tikigaq School. The school was closed on Monday as a result of the incident this past weekend. It was not necessary to attend on Tuesday.

North Slope Borough Mayor Josiah Patkotak wrote on Facebook, “It is totally optional if you’d rather keep your kids home to hold, hug, and explain the circumstance to them.” The relics of ancient sod-house communities lie close by, and a fence made of whale bones wedged upright in the tundra encloses the local cemetery.

The sole year-round access is through an air strip owned by the state. Summertime brings barges laden with provisions, fuel, and other year-round necessities. The locals use four-wheelers, snowmobiles, skiffs, and animal-skin boats for transportation.

According to the borough website, the peninsula is one of the longest continuously inhabited Inupiat locations of North America, with some of its earliest occupants having crossed the Siberian land bridge for bowhead whaling around 2,000 years ago.

There are still subsistence bowhead whale hunts conducted by the residents, according to the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. And just as in most of Alaska, polar bears, caribou, moose, seals, and walrus are all often hunted with firearms.

However, shootings are not unheard of: in May of last year, a guy in Point Hope started fire on residents and buildings and refused to drop his gun. A police officer responded by shooting and killing the man.

According to Patkotak, in order to cover for Point Hope employees, the borough fire department would fly in emergency medical services personnel from the other seven settlements in North Slope Borough, which is about the size of Wyoming. He stated that because they frequently have deep ties to the people they help, they can be affected by the incident.

According to Patkotak, “our small communities are intertwined in immeasurable ways dating back generations.” Behavioral health counselors from Maniilaq Association, a nonprofit organization that offers social, health, and tribal services to people in northwest Alaska, visited Point Hope residents for the remainder of the week.

Additionally, the Point Hope Assembly of God congregation held two services on Monday. The North Slope Borough wrote on social media, “In the days ahead, we will come together as a community to heal and support one another.” As part of a vocational education program, Kaʻainoa Ravey teaches food safety and cookery to high school students in rural Alaska.

She recently worked with a dozen students in Point Hope for three weeks. Tostadas with polar bear meat were one of the meals they sampled. Before the shooting on Sunday morning, he departed. According to Ravey, “the community is very close-knit, with almost everybody being cousins.”

He stated the streets are haunted by bored children at night and that life feels slow there. “It appears as though the outside world largely disregards them,” he remarked. “For this reason, when anything like this happens, it’s really big. It resembles a severe blow to the neighborhood.”

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