Skip to content

After the Snowbird, Comes the Whale 4.

The 2018 Fortnightly Serial.

← Previously.



The Aftermath

MUCH OF FEBRUARY was pleasant. The mornings were clear and the wind intermittent. March brought blinding storms and overwhelming blizzards. The sun inched every morning off the ice horizon. The story Asatchaq told in December described the Moon Man’s violation of his sister. She’d escaped to the sun, re-emerging towards the end of each Tikigaq winter, mutilated, vengeful. I’d watch the sun at ten each morning climbing from the sea ice till it leaned against Cape Thompson. At first just a glimmer, then in crimson, orange, yellow and in a molten interfusion before dropping away in furious exhaustion.

‘That’s siqinnim inua (the spirit of the sun) showing us her mutilations.  She cut off her breasts to confront her brother,’ Asatchaq’s brother, Piquk, told me. He knew Tikigaq stories but was demeaned by Asatchaq. In spite of our friendship, it took persuasion to discuss these things with him.

Asatchaq had told the two origin stories in the same late December session. First the Raven Man harpooning myth. And then its companion, the sun and moon story.

The rituals of the sun and moon were complex. There was in ur-time a taboo infraction. On late winter mornings, women used to climb their iglus and shout greetings to their Sister/Mother of their sufferings. They held up their babies, sometimes pointing south-east with a baby boy’s usuk and shout: ‘Siqinnim inua! Make him a good hunter! Make him a fast runner!’ And returned to the iglu to keep the lamp going.

I thought of Daisy. Uyatauna. Rose-Marie.

In a multiple twilight, at the centre with its sheets of blizzard, lay the wounded goddess unappeasable and shaming.


DAISY’S DEATH HAS so shocked the village that both churches are holding extra meetings every evening. I have attended two of these. First with the Episcopalians and then at the Assemblies, listening to prayers, hymns and confessions from grief-racked women taking on the burden of the crisis. They unpack sins they think have led to alcohol and drug use, rape and fighting. They throw down knives and ulus that they use for cooking as though to purge themselves of things they think they’ve done and to punish themselves for secret wrong doing.

There are guilt-stricken testimonials like confessions to taboo infraction that the shamans once extracted in subsistence crises. All these are untrue. But still they reflect the horror that things like Daisy’s death could happen in the village and a helpless perception of some lapse of care, responsibility and solidarity.

The influx in the past two years of Native Land Claims dollars, Borough revenues from Prudhoe oil, the trauma of the village move: all these have escalated drug and alcohol abuse.

There are starker ecstasies. The influx in the past two years of Native Land Claims dollars, Borough revenues from Prudhoe oil, the trauma of the village move: all these have escalated drug and alcohol abuse. The quieter village of 1960 has also now entered a world of larger connections: federal, Alaskan and North Slope Borough. This change paradoxically results in a dependent status. Autonomous Tikigaq is now subject to powers outside the village. There are floods of new money. But no-one’s taking care of the community. Tikigaq’s both part of a new world and lost within it. When things go wrong, the great powers are absent. They don’t know it’s happening. It’s natural at such times to translate a crisis to apocalypse. And so these visionary weepings ascended from the churches:

I saw Jesus on the Assemblies roof!
I too saw lights there. Jesus is arriving!
It’s finally coming. It’s the Final Judgement!
Save us, Jesus!

I visit the preacher Qiligniq and his wife Agniin. They live in the California beach house the church brought here in the 1920s. It’s now the Mission building, dark green, raised above the snow and tundra, the main room filled with fifty years’ of hymn books, tracts and bibles. We sit in silence. Agniin has a bible open. She’s reading the Inupiaq:

Tingmiaqpak tinmuruaq qutchiktun: silami nipattuaq nipaturluni,
‘Iluilliugutipak! Iluilliugutipak!
Qanutua iluilliuqtiginiaqtut innruat nunami.

Then I looked and I heard an eagle that was flying high in the air say in a loud voice: ‘O horror! Horror!’

I stammer the word and Agniin murmurs, ‘Revelation.’ 1


Patsy and Laura

NEXT MIDNIGHT, TULUGAQ returns with Patsy and her cousin.

NOTE: In The Fortnightly’s online template, illustrations are thumbnails with captions or onward text links embedded. To enlarge an illustration, click on it. To read a caption, hover over the illustration. To play an embedded video in a larger size, click twice.

‘This is Laura,’ says Tulugaq pleasantly. The two girls on my sleeping bag are making me giddy. Then Tulugaq leads them behind the curtain. When Tulugaq dozes, the girls come out and talk in low voices.

They are Daisy’s generation. It’s two weeks since her disappearance and I feel her presence. She was bad girl, stellar, saint of pleasure, victim of an underworld of whispers, deals and insecure liaisons. ‘Half breed girl’ as she’d described herself to me. Brought up part-Tlingit in southeast Alaska. Daisy the new girl no-one much knew or understood would be their patron angel.

There was… I hear Daisy, as though lecturing from death where Uqpik found her —

There was a childhood back then: games, songs, ayahgaaq, the qalgi, learning to sew with your mother and sisters, mittens, boots and parkas, bead work for nalukaqtaq, walking out in summer to dig cotton bulbs from lemming burrows…

No hope, no time, no husband and no children.
History echoes her lamentation.
We had our thousand years, she sings.
Our years of freedom and of meaning.

Fly away Peter, fly away Paul.
Through dead empty space we half-consciously whirl.

In whispers on her fate, the girls, haunted by their love and terror muse, as though they are alone, on Daisy’s life, her death, irreparable, her longing for life — the despair that lures them.

‘I’m not just myself,’ Laura murmurs, excited.

‘I’m in my bones, my hair and my skin.  But I’m not in myself,’ impatient she whispers.

‘Why don’t we go lost then?’ answers Patsy.

‘Nowhere to get lost!’ moans Laura, empty.

‘Shine with your glasses!’ Patsy whispers.

‘And see clearly?’

‘See anything,’ (Patsy).

‘But there’s nothing,’ answers Laura.

‘Should we take that step, hers, Daisy’s then?’ says Patsy, humble.

‘The last!’ breathes Laura.

‘To siku! To the ice and sea!’

‘I’m not myself. But I’m not her,’ says Laura, sinking.

‘You’ll find that,’ whispers Patsy.

‘But it’s nothing,’ Laura.

‘Up and down. Or half way. Maybe in the middle.’

‘Maybe he can help us,’ whispers Laura.’

‘Him…Maybe. But bring luck too,’ Patsy brightens.

‘To be anatkuq…?’

‘The anatkuq is powerful. But he suffers.’

Ii, the anatkuq suffers.’

‘You unhappy?’

‘What’s that? Is it funny?’

‘No. You’re happy. I mean when you sleep.’

‘The sleep that goes on!’

‘That sleep out there.’

They measure the prospect.

‘What about the others? When you leave them?’

‘They forget soon enough. We all forget — people.’

‘You remember Daisy.

Arrii! I forget her.’ The girls weep together.

‘But then,’ says Patsy…’I could go school.  To the U. At Fair­banks. Get things done. Get them right.’

‘Yes,’ says Laura, ‘You could do it.’

‘And come back. Different.’

‘Older. Arrii, horrible. How do you fit back again? Once you’ve gone there?’

‘There is no place for us.’

‘Like for Daisy.’



At one and the same time, writes Heidegger,
It is the clarity in whose brightness everything remains.
And the tranquility by whose strength everything high stands firm.
And the joyfulness in whose play every liberated thing hovers.

As I eavesdrop on the girls’ despairing wisdom, I hear in their voices sages of old Tikigaq: those virtuosos of survival who enacted forms the girls potentially inherited, but hadn’t. These, their brilliant, disenfranchised children, muse amid the uninterpretable ruins.

Then they go off in silence. Tulugaq follows.


The Shaman Ukunniq

IT’S A MID-June sunlit evening and I’m wearing old grey thrift store felt boots when I visit Asatchaq. They’re 1960s National Guard footwear and the toes are split open. The Search and Rescue men who’d found Daisy wore heavier, white rubber versions.

‘Ukunniq!’ Asatchaq remarks, pointing at the toe-holes. ‘Ukunniq’s toes came out like yours. They ate people!’

While Asatchaq drinks tea I set up the recorder.

‘Where’s Tukummiq?’ he asks me.

‘Tukummiq’s sick. She has a cold.’

‘Sick. Ah.’ Asatchaq sniffs and starts reciting.

When later Tukummiq translates, I learn this shaman narrative from ur-time. Ukunniq’s world is geographically familiar. A man leaves the village and walks south to Cape Thompson. He stops at the creek at north end of the cliffs to compete with spirits. The spirits challenge him to split a driftwood tree trunk and they give him whale bone wedges for that purpose. This is the challenge. Around the trunk lie human skele­tons. These are the bones of previous, failed shamans.

Ukunniq hammers at the whale bone and a wedge flies up and just misses his head. The spirits intended it to kill him. But Ukunniq’s escaped and has overcome the spirits. He shows them his toes and they run off in terror.

‘Run!’ shouts Ukunniq. ‘My toes! They’ll eat you!’

Ukunniq walks on. He joins a group of inland travellers and sleeps with a woman. But when Ukunniq wakes the blanket had vanished. The blanket that had covered them was just a ptarmigan wing. Ukunniq had slept with a ptarmigan woman.

Ukunniq walks further. He’s still going south and collects more amulets. Another spirit owns a pair of copper snow-shoes and a sled made of copper. Ukunniq fights him and takes the copper. The snow-shoes start singing:

Ipuputima! Ipuputima!

It’s nonsense but magic. Ukunniq travels to the river where there is a uiluaqtaq: a woman who won’t marry. She’s a shaman. When she combs her hair the men she sleeps with vanish. Ukunniq finds her iglu:

The woman asked Ukunniq what he wanted.
Ukunniq answered, ‘I heard about a woman round here and I came to see her.
That’s what he answered.
IiIi! Yes! Let’s fight,’ said the woman.
And they got on the floor.
Now while they were fighting, the woman lost him.
She was fighting against the floor. Ukunniq lost consciousness.
When his mind returned to consciousness,
The first thing he heard was Ipuputima, ipuputima.
It was the snowshoes.
They took him to the iglu. There was his sled that was made of copper.
He entered the iglu.
‘Well. You came back,’ said the woman.
‘Others before you didn’t make it.’
‘Yes, I’ve come back,’ Ukunniq said.
‘You can have me,’ said the woman.

The story takes place in the travelling season. The sun never sets and everyone who’s able leaves the village.

So with Joseph and Piquk I walk south and we pitch our tents where Jabbertown stood in the 1890s and Jabbertown graves have sunk in buttercups and poppies. The wind smells of honey. A few bees stagger between clumps of saxifrage.

For twenty miles along the bluffs there are canvas wall-tents. The bearded seal migration’s started and men walk out and shoot them where they’re sleeping on ice floes. When Piquk’s killed one, we haul it in and carry driftwood up the beach-head. Beginning with spindrift, I build a fire while Aakuq pushes lumps of meat into the embers.

Neighbours bring a seal-skin sack of caribou the women have preserved in seal oil. The meat’s dark and chewy and the thick bits have a sweet, soft centre. We eat at midnight. The sun burns low. The kids flubber their lips in imitation of a longspur couple, chase ptarmigan moulting their winter plumage and run round barefoot.

I lie down on a clump of saxifrage. The permafrost is quick to reach you. I try the longspur call that Asatchaq applied to Rose-Marie and which the children have been calling:


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.

I’m touched by the season. An old vertebra crops up between beach stones where I’m lying. This is where Utuagaaluk murdered his sakigaq.3 Maybe that’s his back bone.

From south to north along the beach, the Kinaviaq men are shooting guillemots. Piquk chops fire wood. Children holler. Kool Daddy, in his trilby, in the tent at cards with the girls.4 Joseph vanishes across the sea ice. Dogs bark. Rifles. I take my boots off. Longspurs perch on a driftwood upright. The sun pours light along the promontory.

The longspurs remind me Rose-Marie, who’s back in Tikigaq. Born to his sister in 1920, for Asatchaq she’d been a little damaged bird. His niece, a deformed baby, so little she fit the cupped palms of her mother, she grew into a competent, whole person, darting and stitching one thing to another. Now, like Jenny Wren, she is the person of her mother’s house. Its soul, sustaining presence, animation. As though the house walls are the cupped palms of a string game player, she weaves between them: a small, vulnerable spirit ensconsed within Tikigaq’s enormous energies.

Young Tikigaq is out here on the south shore. And Rose-Marie, quite possibly, has never left the village.

It’s late afternoon and four cranes fly towards us from the sea ice — perhaps from Nebraska: Platte River migrants. Aniqsuaq and Piquk run to meet them. The wind’s against them and they crawl up the bluff and stand, two figures against sky, with rifles.

They fire and two cranes rise, flying north till they’ve vanished. One of the birds stands between the two hunters. Anisuaq takes aim and misses. The crane lunges at Piquk who turns towards it shouting. Its legs spiral and its body cartwheels. Kool Daddy has arrived, still wearing his trilby. He runs against it, man and bird entangled suddenly at crazy angles. KD screams with laughter. The bird’s kicking and stabbing. He backs in terror till Anisuaq shoots it.


Snowbird and Whale

FIRST POEM LEGEND5 Crane, German Kranich, Latin grus: the latter is the genus Linnaeus gave it. And presumably he knew the word derived from Sanskrit kraunca, the demoiselle crane, a vision of whose love/death in an ancient story gave rise to the epic of the Ramayana. This legend is as follows:

At the beginning of time, as evoked by the poet in his Ramayana, two kraunca birds are sporting in the forest and as their amorous debate proceeds, a hunter stands up with his bow and arrows and shoots the husband.

The sage Valmiki who was pursuing his ablutions in the same location is witness to this spectacle and with his compassion aroused by the lamentation of the widowed love bird, spontaneously anathemises the hunter. ‘You,’ he cries, ‘who have killed the husband of this happy couple, may you not yourself live long!’ And to Valmiki’s wonder, his reaction emerged in rhythmic measure, or a shloka.

It was in this manner that the first song came into being — and by some freak of etymology, Valmiki’s verse, because it arose from shoka ‘grief,’was called shloka, a verse. Poetry thus had its origin in lamentation: motivated, albeit, by responsive compassion. Returning to his hermitage, Valmiki was visited by the god Brahma who bade him employ his new shloka for the opening measures of the Ramayana.

The first poem arose from this concatenated sequence, which, starting with erotic freedom of a bird song, was followed by the wife bird’s threnody and ended with Valmiki’s poem which synthesised the previous utterances. Love, death, bereavement and compassion thus inform the first song’s origin. These elements are the components of all subsequent poetry.

There’s one other constituent. This is the curse the sage directs towards the hunter: a wild tribal fellow who plies a sanguinary existence outside the boundaries of Hindu society and its vegetarian ethic. Valmiki’s compassion thus represents only one aspect of his utterance. For the sage who approves the kraunca birds’ connubial bliss and who responds with sympathy to the wife’s bereavement is one and the same who issues a malediction — while this latter parallels the hunter’s violent action!

And this curse represents no casual reprobation. Its words are shot, parallel with the hunter’s arrow, at the hunter’s own being. For the fellow lay already outside the sanctuary of the Hindu polis. And now he is condemned, by means of the arrow shaft of the poem itself, to more extreme exclusion.

Here it is the nature of poetry and not of Hindu mores that detain us. Just this: whether those primordial notes came from the kraunca couple in their love or from the widow in her mourning, or whether they arose from human sympathy and an anger which was deflected from compassion into the expression of an anathema, each declaration contains elements which have a preternatural character. The fact that these declamations are uttered at the very threshold of time, lends them mythologic weight: for they are spoken on an empty stage where naught else happens, and thus suggest, in that primordial environment — magnum in parvo — creational doings.

Love, grief, anger and compassion. What more, beside some minor, subtle variations, might there be for the heart and the voice to express? I hear each of these titanic arguments in the stanzas of our ballads and in Shakespeare’s Sonnets. They persuade me that I might one day comprehend, more straightforwardly than so far I have, Lear, Antony and Hamlet in all their tortuous grandiloquence.

To conclude — a literary consideration. In Valmiki’s story, we are presented with a drama which stands at the threshold between two genres. On the one hand, in the love-and-death narrative, we recognise the folk. On the other, with the intervention of Valmiki into what so far has taken place in the language of birds, we witness a translation from the forest into the sacred environment of an ashrama and the ‘perfected’ character of Sanskrit.

Thus while the kraunca story comes to us through the high-flown medium of the Ramayana, my suspicion that this little tale must have derived from folk lore is confirmed by the discovery of its parallel among a primitive people. This I learned from one C.L. Giesecke, late Professor at Trinity College in Dublin, who recorded a little narrative of a bird wife’s bereavement while he was travelling, among the Esquimaux.

In Giesecke’s version, from this rough, unlettered tribe, a Snow Bunting is shot by an Esquimaux hunter and his widow laments — just as the did the kraunca bird in Sanskrit! This story of the bunting or some other bird in variant as determined by environment specifics, raw and untarnished, must be the Ursprung or the origin of kraunca.

Tersely wringing its long, brown neck, Aniqsuaq walks back, the bird slung round his shoulders. Grus, Kranich, kraunca: the demoiselle crane, tattilgak in Inupiaq, whose love/death in Sanskrit gave birth to the first poetic writing. These cranes had arrived to breed in Arctic marshes. Now coiled on Joseph’s rifle they wait for Aaquk to eviscerate and cook them.


Avatiliguuvaq, Snow Bunting

‘TAAM, YOU KNOW what is a avatiliguuvaq?’

‘A bit. Though here’s the only place I’ve seen it.’

‘You know that snow bird comes round here and make nests in iglus?

I anticipated Tulugaq’s message.

‘That bird. We hunt other birds. Every kind of birds we hunt. Snipers, qupuluuraq, ptarmigan. I hunt all those when I was younger. My uncle even give me an old style sling. Qilamittaun. Qilamittautiqaqtua[na]! Me and my brother sure killed ptarmigan and snipers.’

He drew out a silence that continued what had happened when he’d been at Asatchaq’s.

‘Maybe I never heard Asatchaq tell story. Gee, that was scary… Irriggii,6 that old man. But I visit my uncle and he told a story.’

‘You mean Isigraqtuaq?’

‘Yah. Good harpooner. He says,

“I’ll tell you stories. But then you forget ‘em. Today we don’t need those. Sometimes stories, the old timers told us, those stories will get you. They will come get you. The stories are like anatkuqs.”7

So he told me to watch out.

“The stories. They will come and get you.” ’

Tulugaq continued. ‘They got anatkuq power. You know those stories and you’re gonna be some kind of anatkuq. Even those stories they are powerful. Like aanguaqs (amulets) you carry on your body. But those stories get inside you and they gonna eat you.’ Then he told this story:

A snow bunting sat on a hummock and wept for her husband
who ’d been killed by a hunter. A snowy owl approached and sang:

What a fool to lament that wretched little husband
with his spears of grass! I’ll be your husband!

The Bunting replied:

Marry an owl? With those coarse feathers,
fat beak, thick legs and forehead, no neck!

The owl stabbed at the bunting and when she cried, he taunted her:

That’s women for you! Sharp-tongued all right,
but one little poke will start them whimpering!
And off they flew in their separate directions.

‘You hear that story?’ Tulugaq asks sharply.

‘Yes, I first heard in Tikigaq. August 73. But I’d read it in translation. The Inuit in Canada tell it.’8


Snow bunting Journal April 17 1976

THE SNOWBIRDS ARRIVED three days ago, skimming low across the point and coming to settle in the ruins of old iglus. They are brown-and-white passerines and fly in sweeping patterns that express their confidence that they’re secure here. The males arrive first and flit round for feathers and dead grasses to line nests for their bird wives who’ll arrive in a day or so.

Snowbird: avataliguugaq. The dictionary gives five dialect versions. Tikigaq’s six syllables are affectionate with music suggesting light, quick movement:

two short a’s in ava
short a and i in tali,
the long u of uuvaq.
followed by short final a
and the end stop guttural.
Before the q, the final a lies deep in the throat, expressing finality of identification.

The bunting is a spring and summer visitor. It’s the single creature that can’t be hunted. Boys practise shooting .22s at snipe, longspur, ptarmigan and squirrels. Squirrels and ptarmigan can be eaten but the smaller birds are useless. 9

Buntings in flight are white from below. ‘They come from above,’ said old people in the missionary period: local spirits Christianised to angelic beings.10

Because it is the whale’s attendant, the bunting is associated with the whale’s divinity.

Because it is the whale’s attendant, the bunting is associated with the whale’s divinity. Because it nests in family houses it also has historical character: its own forebears colonizing iglus owned by previous families.

Early this century, people called the bunting Jiisauraq, ‘little Jesus’.

‘My mother,’ Agniin told me, ‘she was sitting by her iglu when that bird landed. It landed right here.’ Agniin touched the crown of her head. ‘My mother didn’t move. She sat and did nothing.’ As though grace had descended.


Agniin and Qiligniq, Tikigaq’s preacher

LATER THAT EVENING, ‘After the snowbird…’ Agniin murmurs in the gas flame piercing the old Mission air that lullabies the Arctic priesthood. ‘After the snowbird comes the whale.’

The south wind sets the chimney knocking.

‘That wind needs oiling,’ Agniin grumbles.

‘What kind oil?’ asks her five-year-old grandson.

‘Whale oil,’ says Qiligniq.

I’m sitting with him at the window. Snow blows against old iglus and skims across dark spaces that the wind’s exposed without landing.

‘How about one song?’ asks Qiligniq. ‘The old man teach you.’

He wants north wind to keep a channel open in the sea ice for the whales to travel. Somewhere deep in the preacher lives a thread of old connections which priesthood’s rendered inaccessible.

Before they were Christians, dancers in the ceremonial houses wore masks depicting spirits they had seen in visions. Two years ago as I watched Qiligniq, I saw his ancient face-disc slide out from a mask of Christianity as he stamped and gestured and then slip back quickly.11

Tom Lowenstein was born near London in 1941 and educated at Cambridge. He has worked since the mid-1960s as a teacher. Between 1973 and 1989 he recorded materials deriving from intermittent residence in an Inupiaq (north Alaskan Eskimo) village. Previous publications include three books of poetry: Filibustering in Samsara (The Many Press), Ancestors and Species: New and Selected Ethnographic Poetry (Shearsman Books), and Conversation with Murasaki (Shearsman Books). His three studies of Point Hope are The Things that Were Said of Them (University of California Press 1990), Ancient Land: Sacred Whale (Bloomsbury, Farrar Strauss and Harvill, 1993-2001) and Ultimate Americans: Point Hope, Alaska 1826-1909 (University of Alaska Press, 2009).


  1. This note reproduces a letter to a friend and accompanies the narrative of Daisy’s tragedy.

    Yes, the episodes with Daisy are deeply disturbing and awful. And I’d hoped that I’d presented them with compassion and as a tragedy. Both for Daisy and for the community.

    I tried to present Daisy as a bright, communicative and alive individual. And attempted to show her in the context of her aunt’s household, which I also hoped to portray with compassion. Similarly, the brilliant and despairing conversation of Patsy and Laura, whom I hope I present as wise and intelligent people. 

    The apparently hands-off manner in which I speak of Daisy’s death is done partly because that’s all I know and partly to highlight the bleak awfulness of it. It was unspeakable and I could say nothing more.

    That I could do nothing was historical. What happened to Daisy occurred a long way from where I was, cabin bound, in a large village in a period of darkness and blizzards. I had no more notion than anyone else that Daisy was in danger. It never occurred to me that she was in danger. And I heard only later that she had participated in the clinic break in.  The cause of her death remains unknown.

    I mentioned that Daisy kept company with a group of teenagers but that was how much of teenage life went on – as it does in urban Euro-American society. I was an outsider (3 months in the village). I couldn’t go round warning young people against one another. And there was no need for a specific warning.

    Part of the purpose of the writing was also to describe community reaction. Which I attempted in the two girls’ conversation which I hope I presented as visionary and wise. They could say everything that I couldn’t. And the church reactions which were likewise moving.  Late in the chapter there is mention of Daisy and her aunts. I hope I portrayed them as victims and, in a way, martyrs. This is linked to the sun spirit myth, one of the two fundamentally important Tikigaq origin stories.

    I also wrote the episode partly to highlight the dangers described and have been in touch with Alaska State Troopers office and Alaska state librarians to attempt getting further information. Nothing was reported. The troopers’ office did confirm that the violence in Alaskan villages in 1976 was part of a wave of disturbances that led to the institution of increased public safety provisions. 

    In that connection, and your mention of usefulness. I hope that the bleak and relatively hands-off manner in which I wrote, might have a use in highlighting a historical event. In not dramatising the events too much, I hope I’ve rather presented things as they are.

    I should assure you that I feel very much not blasé. I’ve re-read the passages you mention several times and still weep. These things happened more than 40 years ago, but I still feel deeply affected. My intention was to communicate that sense of loss and tragedy. And this I hope harmonises with one of the overall themes in the text which is about how many things have become difficult since culture contact in the late 19th century.

  2. Lapland longspur. The —aaluk suffix expresses an affectionate ‘funny, big old’.
  3. Brother-in-law
  4. Kool Daddy, age 30, middle son of Piquk senior’s household, appears in sections not included in this draft.
  5. The following passage on the birth of song is adapted from my From Culbone Wood — in Xanadu, 2013.
  6. Exclamation of fear
  7. anatkuqs, shamans
  8. This version after Qimmiuraq, 1973.
  9. Peter Freuchen writes about buntings caught in bird snares, preserved whole by Central Inuit in sacks of seal oil. I don’t think this can have happened in Tikigaq.
  10. See footnote 8.
  11. There’s vivid precedent to the coexistence of Tikigaq religion and Christianity. When the missionary Driggs arrived in 1890, he was befriended by the shaman Anaqulutuq. Anaqulutuq continued to practise as a shaman and Driggs colluded with his ‘hoodoo’. In the journal of a trip they took together to Cape Lisburne, winter 1894, Driggs wrote: ‘Very stormy. I staid in iglu all day. Anaqulutuq did the hoodoo act to change the wind.’ This is followed by an entry that describes another shaman: ‘Wind south. Changed to N.W. [The shaman] Ayauniq changes the wind.’ Driggs’s leaning towards shamanism seemed to coexist unproblematically with his Christian beliefs.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *