Corey Ningeulook of Shishmaref was clearing the rainwater out of his father’s boat when his phone rang.
The call came from the Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC), letting him know he’d received their 2017 Young Providers Award.
“I didn’t know how to react. I was busy at my dad’s boat. I was like, ‘oh, okay, I’ll just go home and let my parents know,’” said Ningeulook.
The award honors youth in the region who “contribute on a daily basis to the health and well-being of their families, communities and culture.” Ningeulook, who grew up hunting caribou, oogruk (bearded seal), and walrus with his family, says hunting is both his passion and a necessary part of life in his community:
“I don’t see hunting as, like, stopping one thing and just doing it, I see it as, it’s gotta be done. Sometimes it’s gotta be done. My poppa, he told me a few times this summer, ‘man, I sure wouldn’t mind fresh meat.’ And I heard that a few times, so I kept going, like maybe five trips, and finally came home with fresh caribou meat. That’s the best part, seeing how happy people are for fresh meat and sharing it.”
In a press release announcing the 2017 Young Providers Award recipients, BSNC pointed to a moment when Ningeulook’s experience hunting at sea became more important than ever. Last summer, Ningeulook and his cousins got blocked in by sea ice while hunting walrus:
“When we were going back we wanted to go back in through the jumbled ice, but we couldn’t. The water was too rough, so we boated slowly, and we ran out of gas at one point. We found a pocket, and we went in there. I started gassing us up, and just before we were done, we barely made it out, so that was pretty scary.”
Eventually, they had to leave their boat and head toward land on foot. “It took us like six hours, seven hours, to walk five miles on the ice. Some pieces of ice were big undercuts, and they would break a few minutes after we went over them,” said Ningeulook.
Despite the danger, Ningeulook says he was able to stay calm and lead the group home because his father raised him on the ocean. In fact, most of what he knows about hunting, he says, he owes to his family:
“The older guys in my life: my dad, my grandpa, my cousins, my uncle. I hunt with them, and they gladly teach me, and I want to learn more and more. I have to thank them for receiving that reward. It means a lot to me. It tells me I’m doing things right. I know I do things right, but it gives me a reminder I’m doing the right thing.”
Ningeulook will be honored at BSNC’s annual shareholder meeting in Nome on October 7th, along with Fisher Dill of Unalakleet. The awards this year were named in memory of Norbert Kakaruk, a Qawiaramiut elder from Mary’s Igloo.
Image at top: Corey Ningeulook of Shishmaref received the Bering Straits Native Corporation 2017 Young Providers Award. Photo: Grueskin/KNOM.