IF YOU ask any Eskimo to translate their word nivershak, you will be told not girl nor maiden nor even flapper, but chicken. This word as used in the Koyukuk refers to any girl over fourteen years of age who is not married or has not gone through change of life. In other words it means any girl potentially eligible for marriage. Thus, when Annie gave Itashluk that black eye and left him, she thereby punched herself back into the front ranks of chickenhood.
During 1931 there were six Koyukuk chickens, all of them living around Wiseman. One of these was a white girl who, both because she did not dance and because she carried with her various of the inhibitions of the outside world, really was not representative. Nevertheless, her cheerful home which was always open to visitors was a favorite retreat for many of the old miners who were nearly starved for even the sight of a young white woman.
But when most people thought of chickens it was of the Eskimo girls, and they certainly formed a unique group. At one and the same time they were the bitterest of enemies, the most jealous of rivals, the most helpful of allies, and the dearest of friends. I recollect once hearing Annie make one of the meanest remarks imaginable about Ashagak. Yet a couple of nights later, when Ashagak was dancing with a man whom