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Index: Serial: After the Snowbird Comes the Whale

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 4.

Part 6, Sec 4: ‘When the generation of our fathers is still active, we tend to project longevity, even immortality, onto its existence. We imagine it to be an omniscient regime that intensifies the childish sense we have of our own low status. But that experience is illusory. Tulugaq knew, as I did, that Pauyungin’s represented the last cohort to speak Inupiaq with competence and thereby knew things that only the old language could grasp. The language was what enabled the eye and the mind both to see and comprehend the complexity of existence. With the death of the language, the multiple realities residing within that complexity, would become inaccessible.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 3.

Pt 6, Sec 3: ‘the weight of the past, its vast, dignified and largely unknowable accumulation, lay mostly hidden, albeit magnetically drawing the mind to dwell in its presence, a presence that even given the prior, biological fact of death, refused to die and was still here animated in its own afterlife while the present flitted above it: and that it was the present that constituted the unreality: our shared, changeful and indeterminate present with its transient, mobile, superficial procession of calculable minutes which were haunted by our sense – in comparison with the semi- or imaginatively perceived wholeness of what lay behind – of incompleteness.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 2.

Part 6, sec 2: ‘These changes came in the wake of a long historical process and language moribundity was not in local control. This is no-one’s fault. And the linguistic education mentioned earlier offered contact and familiarity with Inupiaq, but did not propose fluency. Language death remains a tragedy both for those who have lost it, and the world is thereby poorer.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 6, Sec 1.

Part 6, sec 1: Born in 1884 on the Kobuk River, Bob’s Inupiaq name was Qimiuraq. In the diseases and famines that claimed many in the lower Arctic, Qimiuraq lost his parents, his adoptive grandparents, and in 1893 the boy and his shaman aunt Avagruaq walked north to Tikigaq in search of food and shelter. Stumbling up the beach from Cape Thompson, the two migrants found shelter at Jabbertown, and within a few months they were living as a family with the whaling man from Swansea.

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 5, Sec 3.

Part 5, sec 3: ‘Oil has been described as black gold, and without displacing that metal as global currency, oil, in darker weeds (as Orsino might have phrased it in Twelfth Night) crept up to merge with her older sister. And while none of us can do without the oil towards which we feel an irreconcilable ambivalence, future centuries will presumably view oil as having acted as a temporary convenience, as obsolete as the micro-organisms from which it has evolved. And while, again, it has kept modern society functioning, it will presumably kill us.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 5, Sec 2.

Part 5, section 2: ‘There is, nonetheless, a significant difference between resource utilisation by Natives and Euro-Americans. Native peoples have traditionally shared their territories with co-residential creatures. Native hunters never displaced a prey object. On the contrary, the pursuit of animals is in itself a reason for remaining in home territory. A subsistence dependent Native group will not make its capture and travel off elsewhere. They will remain in order to repeat the experience.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 5, Sec 1.

Part 5, sec 1: ‘North America, as generally viewed by incomers, was a barely inhabited wilderness with freely available resources. It was true that the Norse, in the eleventh century, seemed to have limited their interest to timber and iron. And exceptionally, the Venetian explorer (his Anglicised name: John Cabot), made north east American landfalls merely for water. That said, the Grand Banks south of Newfoundland had by the early sixteenth century become important fishing grounds for Europeans. Basques, Portuguese, Bretons, Normans, English and Irish fishermen who rendered the Americas a prime source for what would end up as stockfish, thus competing with Norwegian cod as a European staple. ‘

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 4, Sec 3.

Part 4, sec 3: ‘The hinterland looks beautiful. I stride forward, in the tutelage of Whitman, to embrace the wholeness. A place in the sunset of two half-defunct traditions. The globe’s circumference girdling my own uncertain stomach. As for the crossroads where I meet Mrs Charlotte, we acknowledge that our paths are culturally coincident but historically, religiously, divided. She’d been present at an early, raw encounter: between ‘savages and Christians’ as some stories had it, interpreting one tale from the vantage of another.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 4, Sec 2.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt 4, sec 2: ‘I didn’t know then, but later learned, that the Episcopal church is part of the Anglican communion and represents a kind of church aristocracy. Or rather that it does not represent a proletarian Christianity. Episcopalian priests were often humanists whose religious outlook lived within a world view that included and even incorporated non-Christian cultures. Hudson Stuck, ‘Archdeacon of the Arctic’, for example, invariably carried Shakespeare on his expeditions.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale, Pt 4 Sec 1.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt 4, sec 1: Once we had been briefly introduced to one another, Mrs Charlotte launched her monologue. She didn’t wait for me to introduce myself, but diagnosed, with some impatience, my character and attitude to Native business. Impatient, maybe, to off-load the contents of a split mind, as she saw it, to a likely fellow being.

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale, Pt 3 Sec 3.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt 3, sec 3: ‘The multiply provisioned store, islanded within spacious customer parking, is in this way, like a barn at the centre of a field system, no less a functional warehouse, than the staunchest downtown JCPenneys. In both cases, old Fairbanks and even older stretches of the arboreal sub-Arctic have been swept away by pre-fabricated modular convenience architecture devoted to importation and product distribution.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale, Pt 3 Sec 2.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt 3, sec 2: ‘With Dido interred, to some degree among the fleshpots I’d carried to the care home, I continued to engage with Virgil…Once I’d spent more time in Tikigaq, I started to see this as a part of my training. It was the deep modeling of Virgil’s poetry, its part organic and part artefactual glamour, that translated a notion of the Aeneid’s internality to a version of what Tikigaq earth comprehended. ‘

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 3 Sec 1.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt3, sec 1: This, on account of my own solitude, was no doubt a projection and I found myself repeating the passage in The Waste Land where Eliot writes ‘These fragments I have shored against my ruins,’ and it was my happiness both to inhabit the ruins of what Asatchaq narrated and to imagine building something from them. It was in this environment that our common experience of solitude met.

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 2 Sec 2.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt 2, sec 2: ‘A Tikigaq name ties its owner to both past and present. My local name is also a fictional extension, a local self, a mask connecting me to village history. I’m both sceptical and acquiescent. I am and am not Aniqsuayaaq. It doesn’t matter. What I’ve brought to this bedside is a name that’s part of Asatchaq’s experience. My other self has no existence.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale Pt 2 Sec 1.

After the snowbird, comes the whale pt2, sec 1: ‘I close my eyes and imagine the Kuukpak River inlet, north of Tikigaq, then paddling downstream in a skin boat. From the banks on the river, mammoth tusks dislodge and fall into the water. Two years later, on the north beach, I am pegging out a fish net when I scoop a fossil molar from the gravel. It lies on the beach stones: huge, gold-brown, perfect.’