`I Don't Want to Change This Belief as Long as I Live'

Article excerpt

MY OLDER BROTHER died when I was old enough to go with him out hunting. The younger brother died when he got lost in Nettsilik.

"Before I was born there were two shamans left who still had their powers. Their powers were to do with hunting and trying to save lives or fight sickness. I was born when they were still around. As my older brothers and sisters kept dying, one of the shamans had said to my parents that he would touch me or hold me at birth. So the shaman touched me at my birth.

"I lived in Kerkerten until I became a young man, where we worked with the whalers, as it was the main settlement (on Cumberland Sound).

"I would start hunting by myself at Kerkerten, and go with others on dog teams. Then whalers' ships needed hands and I joined them.

"During the winter I would sometimes go down with the whalers to the floe edge to hunt whales. The only source of living for Inuit was just to hunt for food for themselves and their families.

"I was never really taught any of these skills as you were expected to learn by watching. The only craft that my father helped me with was arrows for my bow for hunting birds when I was a child.

"In the later fall, food was harder to get because the ice was too dangerous to hunt on. People would eat old meat caught in the spring. I remember being asked to eat rotten meat myself ... they would tell me to eat it so I wouldn't starve.

"Later in life when I moved to Padloping Island to marry a wife, while living there I'd hunt for polar bears, and just then remember that my father had chanted like a polar bear. …