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Location: Eastern Townships, Quebec, Canada

I'm a father, a seakayaker, a guitarist, a writer, a geocacher and a lover of all things arctic. I try to dream big, journey far, kayak well, and above all, cherish my family and friends. I believe in self-sponsorship, Team Zero and being as carbon neutral as I can.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ilatsiak - 77 - Uyaraluk's Warning

Living in Uyaraluk’s camp had been good to David. The months of traveling had helped to erase his memories. Even Qayaq had returned to her old happy self. Now with several years of living in their new home, there was little for them to complain about.
The lives of the people in Bathurst Inlet, much like theirs, was again one of seasonal routine, which played themselves out with a quiet annual rhythm which he and Qayaq found to their liking. The memories of their oldest son had faded and became replaced by the birth of their daughter. With the passing years their children grew up, Kudluk married a girl he had known most of his life and their growing family added to David’s pleasure as he moved into his elder years. He and Uyaraluk had become the closest of friends and were seldomly seen outside of each other’s company. Qayaq complained now and then of missing her relatives along the river they had left, but realised they would mostly be gone now, so many years had past since they had last seen them. There was little point going back. Still, it pained her when she thought of them.
These days came to an end when Uyaraluk died one morning. He had been showing signs for several weeks that something was not right, and while he was one of the oldest in the camp, no one expected his death. It was as if he had been a part of the daily life of the group for so long, it was unthinkable that he could leave them. David was more than a bit shaken when his grand-daughter appeared in their snow-house and just stood there, afraid to speak. Finally she turned and left. The tears in her eyes told both David and Qayaq than something had happened which was ominous. He got up and pulling his boots on went to see what it was. When he broke out into the sunshine and stood up, he knew instantly. People were blocking up the entrance to Uyaraluk’s snow-house, and others were preparing to leave the camp. He had died, just like that, with so little warning.
David stared at the snow-house. He had not slept well. Uyaraluk had come to talk with him earlier in the evening. he had told him a story a young hunter had brought him the summer before. It was about a ship he had seen, sailing in the waters north of Bathurst Inlet. The man had watched the boat swing into Cambridge Bay and not come out. During the following winter, the hunter had gone into the bay to see what had happened to the ship and found it still there. He had then discovered white people on the ship who took him inside and for several days they spoke together and ate strange food. Uyaraluk was very impressed with these stories because only once before had he met anyone who knew white people and that had been David. He had never spoken of this because David had performed many seances where white people seemed to come up out of the water beneath the ice and scare people into behaving themselves. He was afraid of what David might think of these new white people. He also remembered that it had been partly the fear of white people that had brought David and Qayaq and their grieving family to his tent long ago on the Fish River and they had decided to leave and come to Bathurst Inlet. Now he was old and felt he had to warn David that white people were coming back again after all these years.
David stood for quite a while, no one moved towards him or spoke. They knew what he was thinking. These two men who had been friends for so long, most people didn’t even remember seeing them in the time before they had been friends. David moved to the side of the snow-house and sunk his bare hands into the walls of snow. He held them there as he wept for his friend. Finally when no more tears would come he pulled his hands from the snow and looked at them. They were dry and still warm. People who saw this would speak of the magic in this man and how he was so special to them. It was men like him who made their lives special as well, holding out to them the strength and courage to live in a land which could seem harsh at times even to a people who could imagine no better place.



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