The Iñupiaq of Wainwright live a traditional subsistence lifestyle and are dependent on fishing, gathering, and hunting of land and marine mammals for food and to maintain their traditional way of life.
The Chukchi Sea is widely regarded as the Iñupiat garden, and subsistence activities throughout the year revolve around whales, seals, walrus, fish, birds and land animals such as caribou. Salmonberries, willow leaves, wild rhubarb, stinkweed and Eskimo potatoes are popular foods to gather, as are clams and other beach foods.
The bowhead whale is at the center of the Iñupiat culture. The entire community participates in the activities surrounding the hunt, ensuring that the traditions and skills will be carried on by future generations. Whaling is revered in the community, and whaling crews hunt the bowhead in the spring and fall and hold positions of great respect in the community. Crews share their catch with the entire community.
After the spring whale hunting season, whaling captains lead the community in celebrating a successful season with the Nalukataq festival, characterized most famously by the Eskimo blanket toss and Eskimo dancing.