Unicorns at the edge of the floe
Pond Inlet is forever associated with the slightly sickly sweet, but not altogether unpleasant, smell of blubber, particularly when it was uncovering from the snow to the warmth of the sun along the shore and on the rocks. Blubber was everywhere where dogs had been staked out, the leftovers from many seal carcasses gluing to unwary boots. And everywhere there was blubber, there was other thawing evidence of the dogs — only to rank in first-impression importance, thereafter to be accepted and forgotten, except in rereading this very early entry in my journal: “One could write a fascinating thesis on dog turds along here; they abound everywhere, and are at first the thing one is most conscious of on the landscape. On the ice particularly, for every small, deep, round pool of water has been formed around one, and they
Sheila Burnford, the internationally acclaimed author of The Incredible Journey, took an incredible journey of her own one recent summer — northward to the high Arctic to live for several months among the Eskimos in Pond Inlet, a village only a few hundred miles from the North Pole. She went with a friend, Susan Ross, and writes modestly of their adventure, “We were two Kabloonahs (white women) of a certain age . . . Susan was there to work for a forthcoming exhibition of Indian and Eskimo paintings... I was there just ‘to be there. ’ ” But in truth her purpose was the same one that had previously inspired her to live for long periods among the Indians of northwestern Ontario; it was “not to exhort or teach, heal, snoop, pay or persuade but, in peace alone, to learn something of their language and life.” What she learned she wrote in an impressionistic journal that displays her unusually sensitive response to an ancient and threatened culture, and to a people who touched her deeply with their human warmth and nearly superhuman resilience. The following article is an excerpt from her book about that experience, One Woman’s Arctic, being published this month by McClelland and Stewart in Canada and Hodder and Stoughton in England.
are magnified by the water. The contents aren’t a bit unpleasant, but fascinating: caribou hairs predominate, scraps of leather or canvas harness, red duffle, sealskin, and one stunningly exotic offering that looked like a strip of nylon lace . . .”
That first week — and indeed almost all of the weeks that were to follow — was one of such impressions: like a piece of blotting paper I simply absorbed whatever came my way, content to be given bits of information, not to question or inquire, more interested in the land, and the people as villagers and friendly faces than in their relationships, or the workings and economy of the settlement. There would be time to fill in the gaps later when the sights and sounds, the birds and rocks, rivers and flowers, and everything that went to make up this majestic, sunlit land became more familiarly acceptable. Then the small human details could fall properly into place.
There was only one official place for nonresidents in Pond, and that was the “Transient Centre,” four-bunks-to-a-room type of accommodation for the construction crews or weatherbound geologists and other Arctic wayfarers. But someone had come up with the inspired idea of renting the kindergarten to us for living space, under the auspices of the Toonoonik Sahoonin Council, the Eskimo cooperative . . .
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JOHN REEVES
There was still a week of school to go, when the children would be coming in the mornings, but after that we would have the entire run of the place, complete with toys, Plasticine, chalks, a miniature kitchen, and neatly printed cards all round telling us that this was a DOOR, this a WINDOW, and here was the place to take off our BOOTS, with a picture showing us how to do this. Soon our own language attempts were to join these cards; usefully social phrases written large in red crayon, so that we could practise them in our goings out and comings in: INGE-LUKTIT - please sit down: KINAUOOVIT? - what is your name?; AMAH-LOO PULONYIA LOWIT - please come again, all
transcribed in cur own phonetic version of the language. One phrase we were to find useless — “Come in” — for no one ever knocked at a door, they just opened it and came in. As the Eskimos are a quiet people to start with, and usually wear soft, silent kamiks, the sealskin boots, it took a day or two to get used to finding a strange smiling face peering round the bedroom or bathroom door, or suddenly materializing at one’s elbow at almost any time of day or night.
There were six or seven dog teams staked out on the ice in front of the settlement’s shoreline when we first arrived, and several more around the point, and at all times of the day or night they would lift their voices to provide the background music of Pond — the most dramatic and nostalgic sound to me in the world, the great swelling chorus of huskies singing, voice after voice taking up the song, until the last diminuendos. usually ending with a tremulous solo. After a while I was able to recognize different songs — the excitement of greeting a returning team, or of an approaching owner, the first cut of a knife into their seal dinner, mild boredom, or just time for a sing over nothing in particular.
Almost from the first night by that magical window I started taping a Husky Opera with a small recorder I had rolled up in my sleeping bag at the very last moment, hanging the microphone outside the open window, the recorder by the pillow. Thus, if a particularly stirring operatic moment was reached in the middle of the night, or the soprano I had earmarked for the lead role was in good voice, all I had to do was switch on. It became an even more absorbing pastime when the ice started to break up. and broken-off floes with an entire dog team still staked out would sail off down the straits to the west, returning hours later when the pack ice was re-formed by currents and tide. Then there could be some wonderful Pinkerton-Butterfiy effects, if my soprano happened to be aboard a departing ice floe and Pinkerton was still stationary, or staked out on the hillside. Then, of course, if I could tape some of the libretto against a simultaneous chorus of old squaw ducks — who really deserved an opera to themselves — or red-throated divers, it was a real triumph.
Each day as I wandered along the village street, barred from further exploring by the snow still lingering on the hills and shores, faces resolved into personalities, some clearer than others, but all so friendly and welcoming that it was impossible to feel shy or a stranger for long.
Many of them we came to know through the kindergarten children, for by now all the names laboriously printed on the works of art adorning the walls had become live; Ahseetah, Koonah. Joeli, Simonee, Oorootah, Malachai were some of them; quiet, round-eyed, little people, with pinky-brown, glowing cheeks, who barely spoke above a whisper, but who could giggle enchantingly.
Jan Swietlik. their teacher, said that the attention span of these children was far longer than that of any white child she had taught. It was their incredible accuracy and coordination that fascinated me; anything delicate or complex could be left out without any fears of breakage; they might pick it up, examine it minutely, then replace it exactly with their small deft hands. Little boys outside, not more than three or four years old, would play for hours with a miniature dog whip, the lash nevertheless being 15 feet long, curling it back, then flicking
over and over again at the target of a stone or a stick.
Most of the men had biblical names, Levi, Joshua. Timothy, Samuel; very often “ee” or “usee” was added, thus; Markusee, Paulusee, Jobee. Sometimes the choice was a little unnen/ing — “That’s Lazarus on the phone. He wants to speak to you.” (“And how is he feeling now?” one wanted to say.) Or Elijah — he was leaving about five o’clock. I heard someone say the first time I heard his name; but by snowmobile, to go hunting, it turned out. not running to catch the five o’clock Chariot of Fire.
Peteree was known locally as the Honey Pail Man. He arrived every weekday — and weekends you just hoped that there would not be too many visitors — about 9.30 a.m. wearing dark, dark sunglasses (and so would I, come to think of it, if I had his job — so dark I would almost need a seeing-eye dog by Friday) and treading discreetly on stocking soles, looking neither to left nor right, as he headed for the bathroom. The bathroom was off the bedroom, and sometimes, sleeping late,
I would open an eye to see him flitting past my cot. Like everyone else he never knocked at a door, so it was as well to bear this in mind and time one’s ablutions fittingly; though somehow he always managed to convey an impression of not really being there at all. which at least minimized the shock of suddenly seeing from one’s bath yesterday’s green plastic bag
being removed and replaced by today's — this discreet miracle apparently performed by a pair of disembodied dark, dark glasses.
Old Ootoovah gave me an account of being told by her grandmother how. in the whaling days, the people of Pond used to gather when the ice was breaking up to watch for the first arrival of the whaling ships. Everyone, men, women and children, up on the hills, with telescopes trained on the horizon: then the feasting and festivities when the whalers finally — and it must have been dramatically — appeared. The firstcomers were here about 1810, and the last shortly before the 1914 war. The slaughter must have been terrific, for in places the shores are littered with giant single bones and huge vertebrae of bow, Greenland and blue whales.
Something of the whalers had lingered on in Pond, for only a few days after I arrived I had visited old Inoogah’s house and had persuaded him to play his concertina for the tape recorder, thinking that whatever came out would make a nice contrast for my Arctic Symphony. To my complete surprise, out from Inoogah’s wheezy squeeze-box came reel after Scottish reel, played with such authentic verve that I could hardly keep my feet still! He said that he had learned them from his father, who in turn had listened to the whalers making merry.
We set out to join the whale hunt, traveling in three long sleds or komatiks, one about 20 feet and the other two about 17 feet, a 20-foot tow rope attaching each to its snowmobile. I rode in the large one, with Elizee, Danielee’s brother, on the snowmobile, and a small, cheerful goblin called Jootah, who had a smile almost as wide as he was long, as the brakeman in front of me.
It was so exhilaratingly ludicrous, hurtling along in a boat high above the ice at 3.30 a.m. in brilliant sunshine, that I felt quite slaphappy. The round heads of /continued on page 60
POND INLET from page 32 seals reared high on curious necks all round, plopping back into their breathing holes on our approach. They were quite safe today; the men had their rifles loaded and slung, but were not going to waste precious time on seal meat when there was a prospect of muktuk from the “unicorn of the sea,” the narwhal himself.
The horizon stretched out, white and featureless for miles, until suddenly I saw low flocks of birds skimming over shapes that had not been there a moment before. Then, almost as suddenly, in unbelievable contrast to the dazzling still solidity of ice, was a great stretch of open water, blue-black, rippling gently against the sheered-off floe. So this was the floe edge, this most dramatic meeting of elements — no wonder men’s eyes brightened when they spoke of it, for it was breathtakingly beautiful, a fairytale land, filled with unexpected color. The baby bergs drifting by sparkled in the sun, their icicles turned to rainbow prisms, their captive colors ranging from palest green and aqua to turquoise and deepest blue below the waterline . . .
The “floe edge” was always cropping up in conversation, and had begun to assume legendary qualities in my mind.
The barrier of ice gradually retreating before the open seas in early spring stretched across Baffin Bay from far beyond Button Point on Bylot Island to the northeastern tip of Baffin, about 12 or 15 hours’ journey from Pond by snowmobile. There the narwhal were beginning to congregate for the spring migration deep into the inland fjords of Milne Inlet; there the females would calve and they would remain until the autumn’s first ice. They came down from the north, from wintering in the permanently ice-free areas to be found even in Arctic waters, traveling together in small pods, following the Greenland halibut or polar cod shoals. Now the early arrivals would be cruising along close to the floe edge to avoid their enemies, the killer whale and Greenland shark, waiting for leads to open up in the ice — where their only other enemy waited for them with harpoon and gun.
There is no longer any survival exigency about the arrival of the narwhal, no need to burn the blubber down for oil lamps, cut the skin into thongs for dog traces, or remove the sinews for sewing clothes. There remains a marketable curio value in the ivory — a perfect 10-foot tusk was priced at $250 — but I do not think it is that which sends man and boy into such a fervor of excitement. I think it is the prospect of eating muktuk again, the sweet nutty-tasting skin, which is the supreme gastronomic delight to an Eskimo, all part of a spring ritual. That, and the good old atavistic urge to return in triumph from the hunt-
ing grounds — and of all trophies, what more uniquely worthwhile than the white tapering horn of the unicorn of the seas, so strange and beautiful, with its sinistral convolutions?
Jootah was a joy to be with; he was the “merry little fellow,” the jolly elf of nursery tales to the life, in his all in one sic-a-doo suit, and a frame of furry dog hair around his pointed hood and round smiling face, all four feet six inches of him. He used the oil drum lashed to the front like a steering wheel, and over the rough ice was seldom still for a minute, sometimes running alongside as though starting a motor-bicycle, sometimes vaulting from one side to the other to control a tricky turn. When water sheeted up and soaked us, he thought it the funniest thing in the world, and laughed so much he nearly fell off, and this in turn made him almost double up.
From then on 1 was to find that everything dire was a joke — a snowmobile got stuck, or someone or something fell off, or a wrong route was picked, the more calamitous the situation the more sidesplitting one’s reaction. I began to wonder what heights of hilarity we would reach if snowmobile, komatik and all plunged through a seal hole.
It is extremely unlikely that our hunting companions had ever met anything like us; strange white women, old enough to be their mothers, without any apparent commitment to a particular project, do not come winging into Pond on a protracted stay every day of the week. Sut they took us completely in their stride, showing the most refreshing unconcern for our well-being or years. Most refreshing to us, straight from the word-wasting officiousness and nannydom of white society, was the assumption that if we were out there at all we must be capable of taking care of ourselves; being left to our own devices, with no crash courses on how to recognize rotten ice or avoid snow blindness;
no dire warnings about wandering too far, meeting polar bears or falling off the ice floe; no nagging organization about where to perch or when to go with a komatik or looking back to see if one is actually on or not — if not, it is assumed that you don’t want to be, and good-bye.
In the ecclesiastical settlement of the Arctic, whoever arrived first at a village gathered the majority of inhabitants into his particular fold, this status quo enduring until present times, conversions being rare. Thereafter there appears to have been no rivalry, however, but a high degree of mutual respect and ecumenism.
Pond was a good example, as Muqtar and his family were the only Catholics there, but Father Mary was probably the most loved and respected man in the whole community. Not only had he contributed many learned papers on Arctic archaeology, but he had written the most complete book yet on Eskimo string games, those endless varieties of “cat’s cradle” still to be found in primitive societies throughout the world. It was quite amusing that I had given the Canada Council as one of my reasons for wanting to go to the Arctic the desire “to study Eskimo string games.” not then knowing that any work had been done on them — one of the first people 1 met was Father Mary, author of an inchand-a-half-thick book!
The summer I was in Pond Annakudlip’s wife died, and I attended the funeral service in the Anglican church. It was the most relaxed yet devout congregation; children wandered quietly in and out of the open door; babies cried and were put to the breast to silence them; and there seemed to be a constant gentle murmuring, like the muted humming of bees, throughout the service. This, of course, was conducted entirely in the Eskimo language, and followed in prayer or hymn books printed in syllabic characters. Everyone sang fullthroatedly and my neighbor, a large jolly-looking woman called Atagootiak, smiled encouragingly at me and pointed out the place in the prayer book, but I could not have read syllables at that speed even if I had known what the words were, and could only join in with the recognizable Twenty-third Psalm. There was no overt grief, but Annakudlip’s normally cheerful face looked pinched and grey.
When it was over, they put the little plain box on a stretcher outside the church, and the congregation wended its slow way over the river and up the steep path at the knife edge of the hill. Looking up from below it was an unforgettable sight, the whole colorful procession silhouetted in a single-file frieze against a brilliant blue sky. Not wishing continued on page 62
POND INLET continued
to seem intrusive I did not follow to the graveside, where a close semicircle now stood, their backs to the wind blowing off the frozen sea below, so that their heads conformed with those of the Arctic poppies at their feet, the slender stems all bowed before the wind.
The next time I went to church, it was a very different occasion: the wedding of Tabitha and Simonee. Tabitha was the daughter of Mary Alloolah, a most talented carver. Simonee came from Arctic Bay. I noted in my journal: “The bride was costumed in white lace, mini-length, and carried a handbag; the bride’s mother chose for her attirement flame chiffon, with contrasting emerald-green woolen hose; the groom was attired in a brown suit and stiff white color and tie; the Reverend Howard Bracewell performed the nuptial ceremony . . .”
And the guests came as they were, babies, children, teen-agers, parents, packing the church so that Piteolak, who was ushering more and more people on to the already tightly jammed benches, had to seat the last comers sideways down the aisle — making progress up it for the bride and her father rather a tight squeeze, as they had to pick their way in single file around the children sitting on the floor.
I sat next to Elizabee, who had a tiny baby in her amouti (hooded jacket), and two toddlers, one of whom fell asleep peacefully sucking on a bottle under the bench at my feet. Completely composed throughout, Elizabee somehow managed to keep one eye on her children while the other remained fixed devoutly on her prayer book. Even when it became very apparent as we knelt together that all was not fragrantly in order with the baby, now on her lap, she dealt with everything in the same unhurried way: fishing a diaper out of a bag as her lips followed the Lord’s Prayer, and unpinning the baby at the same time, she apparently decided that the catastrophe would be better taken care of outside. She stepped neatly over me and the sleeping child, not missing the “amen,” and was back in mid-voice by the second verse of the hymn that followed.
At the same time as the migrant birds returned to the Arctic the first flocks of various field specialists flew up there too, cramming their activities as frenziedly into the same short season, dispersing to lonely tents and huts scattered up and down the Northwest Territories, from Frobisher to the Pole: glaciologists, biologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, entomologists, ecologists — every possible -ologist — mainly a delightful flock of interesting, diffident individualists, with well-worn packsacks and a strange variety of shabbily practical garb. From their
patient, painstaking study eventually will come a deeper understanding of the northern ecology — not only what makes it tick but what must be done to stop it running down.
Inevitably, in the last year or two these summer migrants have been joined by a new but increasing species: the Oil Men, probing every corner too, but not so altruistically. The Oil Men usually arrived in quartet form in sleek company planes or helicopters; and looked as though they had sprung thus, fully accoutred and clad, from the same well: large yellow boots, peaked caps, unblemished unbaggy parkas, and clean white socks. All had lean, clean-shaven jaws, so firmly set that one suspected they might have been locked before departure by company security officers as a precaution against oral oil spillage.
I had been reading the daily reports
of the progress of the American oil tanker, USS Manhattan, with as much dismay as most Canadians, cheering when she got stuck and groaning when she made any progress. It was a controversial voyage, not only because of the international aspect of territorial waters (the Manhattan flew no courtesy Canadian flag), but because of the disastrous ecological effects of a possible wreck among the subsequent tankers following a successful passage. Controversial too, because there were those who hoped for a success that would eliminate the alternative of a pipeline across the tundra, which would have its own disastrous ecological effects, damaging the delicate irretrievable balance of the thermokarp.
There had been a wonderful dramatic picture in many of the papers of the small figure of an Eskimo on the ice confronting the enormous rearing bows of the Manhattan, an igloo just visible. Now I had seen the original of that photograph; Leigh Brintnell had taken it, and the Eskimo was none other than Danielee, who, with my other hunting
companions, obligingly built the igloo for the entertainment of the Manhattan’s crew.
Many newspaper reports also gave the idea that the Manhattan’s arrival (officially the end of her voyage; in actual fact she came to a grinding halt) was positively providential from the viewpoint of the undernourished inhabitants of Pond Inlet, who received the quantities of food given with much choking gratitude. The truth was that everyone had a wonderful time, with a real sightseeing carnival atmosphere. The 25-mile distance made a nice day’s outing by snowmobile or dog team, the ship’s helicopter flew villagers back and forth as well, and everyone returned loaded with anti-starvation goodies like grapefruit and fresh vegetables (which would have gone bad soon anyway and had to be dumped over) and CocaCola. The economy of Pond jumped, too, as a brisk trade was done in carvings. Altogether it was a most welcome arrival for the starving inhabitants of Pond — though even they couldn’t finish the mountain of accumulated grapefruit; we were given a nice present of some of it.
Working with him on Father Mary’s Dorset “dig” at Button Point, I grew to admire Jobee more and more — so quiet and unhurried, so seemingly content at all times, and self-sufficient. If the white man and all his so-called benefits had disappeared from the Arctic that day, Jobee would not have missed them, for he had lost none of the skills of survival of his people. Nor had he lost any of the knowledge of their games, for his small, deft fingers could weave one version of a string game after another, or juggle unerringly with stones. He could have been the model for a thousand Eskimo carvings — little round men bending from the hips over seal holes, little round men crawling along with harpoons in their hands, little round sorcerer men with two heads . . .
Sometimes I wondered what Joatanee and Jobee thought as they worked on the site, and the bones of the meals their forefathers ate were uncovered, along with their toys, weapons and objects of beliefs and superstitions whose meaning has long since been lost — or not? — from the chain of handed-down knowledge. Particularly Jobee, who was no anachronism here, who could still carve the intricate fishing spear points and hooks from ivory. Father Mary, who is fluent in the proper scholarly Eskimo of Jobee’s generation, may have asked him, or gleaned some knowledge; but if he has, like all archaeologists trained to accuracy and the disregard of highflown premise, with a built-in fear of misquotation and misrepresentation, he keeps it strictly to himself.
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POND INLET continued
Domesticity was not a feature of Button Point. In fact I found myself slipping further and further back down the centuries — a few more weeks and I would have been indistinguishable from Mrs. pre-Dorset herself: prodding into peat turf on my walks with a bit of handy caribou bone, tightening the camera screws with a bit of flint scraper found in my pocket, even cutting a piece of sealskin rope for the hut door handle with a microblade; wielding — very very seldom — my goosewing brush on the hut floor, or dusting off the debris from a fallen biscuit before resuming consumption. I had been relieved at the outset to find that Father Mary shared the same time saving ideas about washing dishes . . . and never cleaning off the morning’s porridge saucepan — that crusty, hard-set ring and those deposits cemented to the bottom will soften up under lunchtime soup and thicken it into the bargain. And the debris of lunchtime soup, naturally, will increase the flavor of supper's stew. I don’t know if this premise extends into supper’s stew improving next morning’s porridge, for even I drew the line there, and faithfully cleaned out the pot at this stage.
I had not realized until I reread my journals what an obsession about food is manifest in the North. Yet 1 distinctly remember becoming a little bored occasionally with the endless gastronomic details in all the books of Arctic exploration that I read at the time (“Dinner time — rejoiced in pickled cabbage and dried peaches . . .”; “The pot was kept boiling and the igloos rang with primitive joy . . .”; “It was a glorious meal — dog, as far as I remember — we ate forgetful of the past, and almost heedless of the future . . .”), and can only conclude that either something of this literary style washed off on me, or that good healthy Arctic air just naturally develops an appetite like a horse.
One day Bernadette, the Eskimo wife of a teacher, left her Northern Cookery Book with me; I spent an entranced afternoon reading it, and never have I come across a cookery book that went straight to my heart as this one did.
It had been compiled as a Centennial project, with individual northern cooks contributing their specialties. What reached right out of the pages to me was the great basic simplicity of method and ingredients in the majority of recipes. Take Oven-Roasted Lynx for example: no fooling around with basting or parsley or roux making; just two starkly practical lines; “Wash and clean the hind legs of a lynx and roast in a roaster with lard and a little water.”
Boiled Reindeer Head had the most appeal for me, for all one’s ill-nature at the prospect of preparing a meal could
be vented in the therapy of its preparation. All one needs, besides the reindeer head, is an axe and some cold water. “Skin the head. Then chop' it in quarters, splitting it between the eyes with an axe. Cover with cold water and boil until soft.”
Then there was Seal-in-a-Bun, Dorothy Mackintosh’s Moose. Steamed Muskrat Legs. (This last had an interesting slant on the use of seasonings, for the legs must be dipped in a bowl of flour with salt and pepper, and any “strong seasoning” available. Further along the recipe candidly reveals the reason: “the strong seasoning takes away the actual taste of the muskrat.”) There was one short and succinct recipe that I thought put Mrs. Beeton and her grandiose ingredients (take 24 eggs, etc.) thoroughly in her place: “Fried Whale Meat: Cut up freshly caught whale. Fry in grease with onions.”
Far from being like the northern Indians, many of whom so bitterly resent the breakup of the pattern of family life and will go to all lengths to keep their young people from leaving the band, the older people here did not want to hold their young people back, to the extent that often they would not even tell them the old tales and beliefs.
It is the Kabloonahs mainly who, from experience of what civilization can mean, regret the passing of the old ways. But occasionally there is mutual response, such as happened in Pond, when some of the parents and older people became enthusiastic over a school project that was a sincere and practical Kabloonah attempt to bridge the time gap. In this project, the Making of Sealskin Kamiks, the boys of the upper grades were required to hunt the seals and make the frames on which to stretch the skins, while the girls were to scrape, clean and soften the skins, and eventually turn them into kamiks. (Only one of them had scraped a skin before:
only two had made kamiks at home.) The plan being outlined by the teachers, various mothers and grandmothers said they would come to the school to instruct the girls; and fathers and other relatives agreed to accompany the boys out hunting.
An interesting impasse then ensued: all were quite adamant that they should be paid for their services. Somewhat taken aback, the teachers suggested that, as it was to be an extracurricular hometown activity in which the children would be taught skills that they should have learned at home anyway, surely the parents would give their services free? Not a bit of it, said the parents firmly, you brought this situation about with compulsory education; no pay, no teaching of ancient skills. They were paid. It was left to the inexplicable Kabloonahs to feel their usual burden of responsibility.
I was both amused and delighted to hear of this essentially pragmatic and shrewd outlook — one that should stand the Eskimo in good stead in this present-day world — but most white people involved felt baffled by such a mercenary display.
I can’t help feeling that the average Eskimo will do a far better job of coping with the problems of civilization than we ourselves who created them; and that, all aspects of self-destruction being equal, he stands a far greater chance of ultimate survival. He has adjusted to a technological age within a decade and, possibly most important, he enters that age with his backbone already stiffened genetically.
He has been brought up too since childhood in the discipline of trial and error; it would be a very stupid childgrown Eskimo who did not soon realize that excess alcohol, drugs, or anything that causes a diminution of responsibility, can never meet the Arctic on safe terms; to relax one’s guard against the dangerous might of such an environment could be suicidal.
Such danger might well be the Eskimo’s most meaningful safeguard, for I believe they love their mighty land and are so much a part of it, so indivisible, that they could not be happy for long anywhere else, whatever the dollar enticement of the south. I believe that one of two things may happen when the ultimate end comes: when his lands and seas can no longer support him the Eskimo will simply say “Ajorahmat — ah, well, that’s that” and become naturally extinct without further fuss or bother; or, should some cataclysm overtake the entire world, I cannot help thinking that the small, cheerful, resourceful and resolute figure of Edwardee Nanook might be the only one to rise from the ashes and start all over again. ■