Skip to content

Index: Serial: After the Snowbird Comes the Whale

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 pt2, 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.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 6.

After the snowbird, comes the whale 6: ‘But respectable folk also perpetrated naked pillage. In the 1890s the missionary Sheldon Jackson cut down totem poles in south-east Alaska and also secretly appropriated masks in Tikigaq. This was routine practice. Most strikingly in Tikigaq, the Ipiutak excavations of 1939-40, unearthed a treasure trove that went into museums. ‘

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 5.

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 5: ‘In ayahagaaq, a circle of sinew or seal line held between the palms is manipulated into semi-abstract versions of activity and transformation. The string moves in coordination with the narrative and when the string collapses, the space between the hands returns to emptiness.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 4.

After the snowbird, comes the whale 4: ‘Everything’s alive and in migration. The lagoons beyond the bluff that parallel the beach are filling with snow goose, scoters, harlequins and bufflehead. On the marshes that surround these, phalarope and godwits, knots and whimbrels. Summer migrations draw people inland. After the whale hunt, they co-habit with the smaller species.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 3.

After the snowbird, comes the whale 3: ‘Two Octobers back, I watched the village clean up team collect the barrels that had contained stove oil brought each September from San Francisco. On complex contracts and transcending vastly difficult logistics, fuel from cosmopolitan producers and via multiple cooperating agencies is shipped in a four month summer series of provisions north to Alaska and at Tikigaq is lightered to a central tank that’s fueled the village since the mid-1950s. Brimful with excreta, the barrels at freeze-up are carried to the north side and rolled into the water.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 2.

After the snowbird comes the whale 2: ‘Just as travellers moved from the ritual intensity of winter and spring to the more agnostic freedom of summer in the interior, so in July 1909, at the behest of a new missionary, they participated in the separation from Tikigaq of the cemetery where their ancestors had lain for generations as a part of the village.

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 1.

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 1: ‘He knows I know his name is Tulugaq, but still I call this mighty individual Sharva, who visits me these late spring evenings. A specialist in kung-fu manoeuvres reproduced from Bruce Lee movies, small hours, visio­nary conversation, Sharva’s passage through the village keeps the girls awake and some in terror as he guns his machine to the edge of my storm-shed and opens the throttle in a final bellow. Then in the after-blast, he strides through the snow, my outer door groans and his glove smacks the lintel.’

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale: Introduction and index.

Introduction, by Tom Lowenstein: ‘At first, before I started work in the village, I imagined that I would be entering a world of the prehistoric. But when I realized that Native Alaskans had known Euro-Americans since the 1880s, I came to accept and to study culture change. Much of the present text is about the double nature of Inupiaq life and its relationship with modernising America…’