May 02, 2013

Chip and Agnes Hailstone

Chip Hailstone and his native Inupiaq wife Agnes live with their seven children on the Kobuk River in the North West of Alaska. Chip came to visit Alaska 25 years ago from Kalispell, Montana and he never left. He did not plan to stay, but the opportunity to hunt appealed to Chip.

Chip could easily relate to this lifestyle because he grew up hunting and fishing. Chip is a skilled hunter and uses his antique rifle, a 12-gauge, .22, bow and arrow, and even rocks or his bare hands to make a kill. Chip calls guns his tools and hunting his way of life. The material he needs to make a living is in his surrounding environment.

For the past 20 years Chip has been hunting, fishing, and gathering raw material. Chip’s motto is, live for the day but plan for tomorrow. He goes into each day with his eyes wide open. Death is a large part of his life, but Chip says he is not afraid. Worrying is the first step to protecting himself. Everyday Chip takes a calculated risk. Part of living off the land is being ready, going with nature’s flow, weather, and available materials.

Chip’s family moves seasonally to track down the best hunt, setting up tents in the snow or on the ice, and each of them plays an active role in keeping the family alive: hunting, fishing, skinning, tanning, and crafting the animal remains to trade and barter. They hunt bear, caribou, bison, wolf, fox, wolverine, walrus, fish, waterfowl, even whale and seal. They use the entire animal that they harvest including skin, teeth and bones to make arts and crafts to sell. Chip is happy to have stumbled his way into this world. He first came as an outsider. Now, this is Chip’s home.

For Chip and Agnes Hailstone, Life Below Zero demands resourcefulness. Making efficient use of everything and using any surplus for bartering, helps them thrive in the challenging Alaskan wilderness while tolerating zero waste. Explore more with the interactive companion,

Photograph by 2012 BBC Worldwide Ltd.

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