One Man's Ink'on
The major impetus behind this collection of accounts of ink'on was not the research program of the ethnographer but the pleasure of the native consultant. Soon after meeting Vital Thomas in 1962 during my first sojourn in Rae I realized that he had the interest and the temperament to take on the role of key informant. Broadly, my field research emphases were Dogrib society and polity present and past. But I also pursued with Vital any questions raised by events, observations, conversations, and any other happenings, as well as any topic Vital chose to bring up. We worked together one to two hours every day. Since I paid Vital by the hour it was in his financial interest to have the sessions run at least two hours. The arrangement probably provided some motivation to introduce topics if my agenda inquiries sagged. But his introductions of stories of ink'on into our sessions flowed truly from his enjoyment of the stories and the sense of wonder that they evoked in him.
In his younger years Vital had been the factotum and interpreter for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (A brief life history concludes part 2.) He was well versed in whiteman scheduling and work habits. His slow deliberate speech usually allowed me to keep pace with his narration as I wrote down his words, although often in a condensed form. I then typed the transcription, usually the same day--a practice that might bring some adjustment of the record for myself in the interests of clarity. The accounts of ink'on that follow, then, are not reproductions of Vital's narrations, but they are reasonable facsimiles for purposes of content. The shifts in tense follow those in my transcriptions (which may have been less grammatical than Vital's speech). Also, the notation [Q] derives from the notation in my transcriptions that I asked a question at that point.
Over the years Vital and I worked together, two bush Indians of roughly Vital's age made the effort to tell me that Vital didn't know anything (or words to that effect). Since one of them was an absolute monolingual, he had to commandeer a bilingual bystander to register his