The hidden years in Canada 154, the tribal sacrifice

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Thursday 03 September 09:28


The tribal sacrifice

My underwear and socks had been dragged through the water and lay to dry in the truck. ‘It's important,’ Bill said, ‘to get changed or you'll get boils and that is something you really do not want.’ He could be gross and distasteful, but I realized that he probably spoke from experience. I came over when Bill came out with a motor drill, ‘it goes in the back,’ he said, ‘and let’s go for the last drink of hot coffee for the next few days.’ So we sat there a little later at the bar with our hands around a mug of coffee, each with our own thoughts. ‘The owner came over with a plastic bag, ‘right men he said,’ the survival pack of delicious moose meat. Bill paid up and knocked on the bag, ‘for the toolbox, it’ll stay frozen longer there than we will work here.’

‘Airfilter meals,’ he stated, and I did not want to seem stupid and took it on me to ask him later in the cabin. I took a few moments later the plug from the power pole and Bill left for the truck to pre glow it, you could see him count in his head and after a second or 10 he started the engine, a low growl greeted us. We stayed there for a moment until the engine had come up to temperature and the typical diesel snoring sang it’s song. ‘Here we go big mother,’ laughed Bill ‘way up North. He looked relaxed and in his element, you could not imagine that the man, days ago, had walked all crooked from the misery that the real world had brought to him, the separation, almost bankruptcy, now this was his real world, an area in which he had control and that other unsightly area, had become a story in the distance.

‘Yes,’ Bill began, ‘it was not easy for Earney. He had traded his life for some food, but his life was far from pleasant. He learned some more words in Inuit and could greet people. For the rest he learned many single words but could make no sentences, he felt socially excluded. He could say fish and ice hole and spears, as he looked for it, he said kakiwak and shrugged and looked around. There were not too many utensils and if he wanted to learn a word, he pointed at something and said inuktitut  and made movements with his hand. It meant something like speak, language or word. When he got his cup of sludge and slurry or a wind-dried meat, he said qujannmiik and then looked very grateful and submissive. It meant something like ‘fine or thank you’, he wanted to talk again just five minutes with someone. No man is an island, people need people to share their ideas, and although there was always one or another of the tribe around him, Earney was lonely.


The men were occasionally out on the sleds and then came back after a long time with their sleigh fully packed up with supplies from the truck. The dogs were then exhausted and the men stood on the behind and toed along to help the dogs .. The cargo was moved in this way slowly from the truck to the settlement and after an overnight snow it had just become a triangular hill again that went up in the landscape. Earney had clocked them, because as his watch was no good in the polar area with its different days and nights, you could still measure time with it. They were about seven hours away from the camp and they went about once a week with a couple of sleds towards the South. Earney had learned after a few months, that the wind always blew from North to South and that in doing so it blew tracks in the snow. The wind worked as a crude compass. On other days the men left but came back with spoils of the hunt.


There were also two men who occasionally placed supplies on a sled and then much later came back with furs. Earney just assumed they traded or bartered with Indians or other Inuit tribes. The few women which the tribe was rich, then watched approvingly and the furs were examined by them. The men who 'traded' were held in high esteem, they were the window to other worlds and they’d sleep with the women that night. It was almost the day before the truck run when one of the men slipped and fell and really came down hard. He could not get up and Earney thought from interpreting the moves that he had broken something, or his arm or a few ribs or both. He was helped into a big ice dwelling and the largest Eskimo pointed to Earney and said something that the poor man did not understand. He came up to him and pointed out the sled and then smeared his face with seals drab and pointed to Earney to do the same. Protection against the cold wind, thought Earney. Moments later Earney sat on a sled under a cloak of furs and the men left. They whizzed across the plains, and after a few hours they reached the banks of the lake where the truck still rested on the ice.

It was clever how they found it back, Earney had no idea how they had done it. He looked at the truck and thought wistfully of his previous life. But there was not much time to muse he had to help unload and then load the sleds up. The biggest Eskimo shared some tough meat and a little later they whizzed back across the plains. Upon return the old man whom he had helped to build an igloo, was now the guardian of the hole.The man who had broken something, sat against the igloo and had obvious a lot of pain. A woman brought him a cup of sludge and it was obvious that the man had at least his arm broken because the bowl was held to his lips.


Time passed and it was obviously time to go to the truck wreck. The man whose place I had taken beckoned us with his good hand he motioned us all to come. He looked at Earney intently and asked him something, almost begging, but he did not understand him and shrugged. Then he looked at a second tribesman and grabbed his knife and asked him the same, Earney said it had sounded much the same as before. The man shook his head and looked away from his wounded comrade '.Bill paused talking and stared into space. ‘When the largest Inuit came over and put forth his hand, the wounded hunter placed his knife in his hand. They looked at each other a long time and then the man who sunk half crouched down again, asked him the same, in a complaining tone. Slowly his fellow tribesman grabbed the knife out of the hand of his wounded companion and leaned slightly forward. Then he thrust with force the knife in the diaphragm of his chest which made a cracking sound and the wounded Inuit collapsed with eyes closed The man put the knife back beside him and two tears made their way down his cheeks and he turned away and went outside to stand outside the circle. . '.

‘Why, Bill, why,’ I asked? ‘That's terrible.’ ‘Old people see the horizon of their existence,’ said Bill, ‘or injured or weak, they beg tribesmen to take their lives when they are no longer productive. The same happens in times of poor hunting, the children are slain, and when food shortages threaten. They ask three hunters and the third party must perform the sacrifice ‘I was speechless. ‘I do not know what to make of it,’ I said. ‘Oh,’ Bill replied pragmatically, ‘they are the chosen people, they may decide that for themselves.’ ‘That must have been a shock for Earney,’ I thought. ‘Yes,’ said Bill, ‘it was, he told me, this is when he decided he no longer wanted to live with the Inuits and that he somehow wanted to return to 'civilization'

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