My Photo
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.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ilatsiak - 81 - Strangers Bring News

Way out in the bay, anyone with eyes to see could make out a tiny speck slowly making its way through the ice fields. Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch. Soon it would be possible to tell who was coming. Even at this distance, a person’s stance on the sled was recognizable to the small group assembled at the semi-circular array of snow houses along the bay. David listened to children as they called out that there was a dog sled out on the bay coming in their direction. It unnerved him slightly and it got worse when he could hear it was strangers arriving. People unknown to the camp could mean trouble. He wondered if he should get up and go see the sleds for himself. His family would expect it as he was the oldest by far. Still he lay on the snow-house bench and seemed to have trouble making up his mind what to do.
David listened to the camp people begin to speak with the strangers. Now the origins of his discomfort became clear. There was talk of white people in the area. People with a ship. People looking for Inuit. He decided to remain where he was and watch what would happen.
Over the course of the next few days, there was much chatter among the camp people. None of them had ever seen white people although like many people they had heard lots of stories of these dog-faced people from some distant land fat to the south. Before long, many wanted to go to their camp and see what they were like close up. It would be an adventure, but at the same time others held back fearing it may be a trap of some kind.
Then Aupaluk and his family left, heading west towards the white people’s camp. The time of indecision was over and many people, including Kudluk decided they too would travel west. It was clear however that David was concerned about them going. He decided to have a special snow-house built so he could think about what the coming of the white people meant.
As he sat in the small snow-house David felt rather foolish. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. He tried to concentrate on the situation and as he did so, he began to feel waves of panic sweep over him. He saw Aupaluk swirling into the water, massive blocks of ice being flung into the air and piling one on top of the other. Aupaluk was madly trying to save his wife and their children, but the water currents were too strong and the breaking ice too confusing to do anything for them. David had often had powerful dreams, but this one seemed to come from the very depth of his soul. He could only see the horrific scenes around him. Everywhere else appeared to be black and formless. Without being aware of it, he suddenly stood up, bursting right through the roof of the snow-house. In his panic, he angrily pushed aside the snow blocks in front of him and began running towards the camp, yelling for everyone to get ready to leave. He remembered yelling to them that they must hurry to save Aupaluk and his family from certain death.
The days spent at the white man’s camp were not at all what David was expecting. In a way, he had assumed he would be recognized by the traders. He expected he would have to speak English, a language which he no longer thought he knew. As the time passed and everyone treated him as an Inuk and even called him by his Inuk name, he found himself relaxing. He enjoyed speaking with a young clerk named Patsy and began to tell him some stories. Some of them were true and others he embellished to make them more interesting. He remembered telling Patsy that the traders boat was quite small to be in these waters. He also told them the boom was broken, although he couldn’t remember the word for ‘boom’ and called it the ‘thing which makes the boat go’. Not very satisfactory, but it seemed to please Patsy.
The last night they were there, David watched the white men playing dominoes. It seemed to set him off for a reason he couldn’t pin-point. Finally he got up and scattered the dominoes across the room and left. When he arrived back at Kudluk’s he announced he would be leaving. The next morning everyone had left the trading post and was on the way home.



Post a Comment

<< Home