Today, if you walk into a store alone any coastal town and ask for a harpoon, you’re more likely to get a hoppy beer brewed in Boston than you are an instrumental of aquatic attack. One of the only exceptions to that rule comes in Alaska, which is far enough that there aren’t many bottles of East Coast beer but there are plenty of historical remnants of the state’s whaling past.
That’s most clear in the tiny town of Point Hope, where the local high school, Point Hope (Ak.) Tikigaq High competes as the Tikigaq Harpooners. Point Hope has a long history as an Alaskan whaling village, so its adoption of the whalers would be a natural pick for a school mascot.
Instead, Tikigaq officials chose the Harpooners in a nod to the men who actually thrust the sharp implements into whales while the practice was still legal (while it is still legal for some Native American tribes to kill whales, few still do so the mascot is seen as a purely historic doff of the cap rather than a contemporary cultural connection).
The Harpooners aren’t the only whaling reference used in Point Hope -- the town also holds an annual whaling festival during the traditional whaling season -- but it is the most visible and direct, constant tie to the town’s past.
What do you call a female Harpooner? A Harpoonerette, like these Tikigaq basketball players! Facebook
That’s something to be proud of, and to play for in the case of the Tikigaq teens.
The Little Diomede (Ak.) Diomede High Dateliners are named because of the school’s proximity to the international date line. The town itself sits just one mile from the international date line, which, as noted by USA Today, can create interesting time-space continuum issues during the long winter freezes.
The Aniak (Ak.) High Halfbreeds could be considered a more equally offensive version of the Redskins, but local residents don’t take it that way. Rather, the homage to the towns proliferation of half white-half Eskimo families is seen as a point of pride at the town’s continued diversity and inclusion. Who’d of thunk it?