Carib

St. Lucia, St Lucia

First Contact:

10
70
20
gather% / fish % / hunt %
fat % / protein % / carb%

A rough estimate to help us understand how carnivorous and how ketogenic these people were before being exposed to western civilization

1/0

Click this Slide deck Gallery to see high quality images of the tribe, daily life, diet, hunting and gathering or recipes

About the Tribe

Who were the Carib? - Possibly a carnivore population.


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Importance of Animal Products

The Carib Indians were primarily fishing people. They took to sea in their long canoes to catch fish, crabs, and other seafood. Hunters also shot birds and small game.

Importance of Plants

In some Carib communities, farming was an important food source, with cassava, beans, squash, and peppers being grown. Other Carib groups did little farming and acquired peppers and cassava through trade or raiding.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5545405/?page=4

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Transition to Industrialized Food Products

Observations on the Diseases Which Appeared in the Army at St. Lucia in 1778 and 1779. To Which Are Prefixed Remarks, Calculated to Assist in Explaining the Treatment of Those Diseases. With an Appendix, Containing a Short Address to Military Gentlemen on the Means of Preserving Health in the West Indies


In the fourth chapter the author describes the situations of the island, in which the men specified in the table were fixed, and endeavours to determine which are the most healthy. For this purpoSe he gives a comparative view of the health of the natives compared with that of the troops.

He observes, that "at Carenage-town the People are:

  • short-lived,

  • have annual attacks of fever,

  • yellow and meagre countenances,

  • small legs, except when edematous,

  • so that they have the appearance of persons worn out by disease.

At Gros Met, we are told:

  • the inhabitants live longer,

  • are not fo subject to disease, at least not the same degree or duration,

  • and that they are fuller in the face,

  • and more hearty.

At Souffrir the inhabitants have:

  • cheerful countenances,

  • and nearly in a state of health with those of Gros Islet,

but this, our author thinks, may be attributed to a better diet rather than situation. "

On the extensive plain to windward of this place very few diseases appear, and they are mostly internments : the countenances here of the women, of the children, and even of the men, have some degree of resemblance to those of the European, the female has the red on her cheek, and the child has all the marks of health.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5545405/?page=4


Carenage, formerly known as Le Carenage, is one of the most popular bays located in west Trinidad. This bay, which is a famous sea bathing and liming area, got its name out of the practice of "careening", or cleaning out the waste materials in sea vessels, which was carried out in the area for centuries.

Initially, Le Carenage was the name given to the river flowing into this bay as well as the valley were the river flowed.

The Carenage valley, possibly because of its extremely fertile soils was essentially an agricultural area where crops sugar-cane, cotton and coffee were grown. In fact, the area contained ten sugar mills, five rum distilleries and a workforce consisting of 607 enslaved Africans and 131 'free' people of colour. Owners of the estates comprised of 19 families (64 whites), including the Dumas, Noel, Dert, Mercie families. http://www.trinbagopan.com/Townsandvillages/Carenage2.html


Carenage, formerly known as Le Carenage, is one of the most popular bays located in west Trinidad. This bay, which is a famous sea bathing and liming area, got its name out of the practice of "careening", or cleaning out the waste materials in sea vessels, which was carried out in the area for centuries.

Initially, Le Carenage was the name given to the river flowing into this bay as well as the valley were the river flowed.

The Carenage valley, possibly because of its extremely fertile soils was essentially an agricultural area where crops sugar-cane, cotton and coffee were grown. In fact, the area contained ten sugar mills, five rum distilleries and a workforce consisting of 607 enslaved Africans and 131 'free' people of colour. Owners of the estates comprised of 19 families (64 whites), including the Dumas, Noel, Dert, Mercie families.

In 1849, Lord Harris made the Carenage area into district into a ward. Also, a few years later in 1851, an inland postal service was inaugurated in Trinidad, making Carenage one of the first places to receive mail in the country. Carenage was also one of first areas to set up primary schools in the country.

Despite the area's popularity as a fairly prosperous agricultural region, the face of Carenage seemed to change by the 1870's becoming a poor fishing village, although many were still involved in agriculture. It was at this time that parish priest (or abbé) Antoine Poujade came to assist the poor and helped to erect a chapel and a statue of St. Peter overlooking what is now known as St. Peter's Bay.


Gros Islet (English: Large Island) is a community near the northern tip of the island country of Saint Lucia, in the Gros Islet Quarter. Originally a quiet fishing village, it has gone on to become one of the more popular tourist destinations in the country.

Settled by the Carib (and possibly Arawak), the area was first identified as Gros Islet in a French map from 1717. The community was a Roman Catholic parish, as the first priests who arrived on the island settled in the village in 1749.


https://www.diffordsguide.com/producers/174/st-lucia-distillers/history

Dec 1, 1778

John Rollo

Observations on the Diseases Which Appeared in the Army at St. Lucia in 1778 and 1779. To Which Are Prefixed Remarks, Calculated to Assist in Explaining the Treatment of Those Diseases. With an Appendix, Containing a Short Address to Military Gentlemen on the Means of Preserving Health in the West Indies

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Dr Rollo, who later recommended a meat diet, writes 20 years earlier while stationed in St Lucia, that the civilized town Carenage with sugar production had far greater disease than the fishing village of Gros Islet and attributes it to a difference in diet.


Observations on the Diseases Which Appeared in the Army at St. Lucia in 1778 and 1779. To Which Are Prefixed Remarks, Calculated to Assist in Explaining the Treatment of Those Diseases. With an Appendix, Containing a Short Address to Military Gentlemen on the Means of Preserving Health in the West Indies 


in the fourth chapter the author describes the situations of the island, in which the men specified in the table were fixed, and endeavours to determine which are the most healthy. For this purpoSe he gives a comparative view of the health of the natives compared with that of the troops. 


He observes, that "at Carenage-town the People are:

  • short-lived, 

  • have annual attacks of fever, 

  • yellow and meagre countenances, 

  • small legs, except when eedematous, 

  • so that they have the appearance of persons worn out by disease. 

At Gros Met, we are told:

  •  the inhabitants live longer,

  • are not fo subject to disease, at least not the same degree or duration,

  •  and that they are fuller in the face,

  •  and more hearty.

At Souffrir the inhabitants have:

  •  cheerful countenances, 

  • and nearly in a state of health with those of Gros Islet, 

but this, our author thinks, may be attributed to a better diet rather than situation. "


On the extensive plain to windward of this place very few diseases appear, and they are mostly internments : the countenances here of the women, of the children, and even of the men, have some degree of resemblance to those of the European, the female has the red on her cheek, and the child has all the marks of health.


http://www.trinbagopan.com/Townsandvillages/Carenage2.html


Carenage, formerly known as Le Carenage, is one of the most popular bays located in west Trinidad. This bay, which is a famous sea bathing and liming area, got its name out of the practice of "careening", or cleaning out the waste materials in sea vessels, which was carried out in the area for centuries.

Initially, Le Carenage was the name given to the river flowing into this bay as well as the valley were the river flowed.

The Carenage valley, possibly because of its extremely fertile soils was essentially an agricultural area where crops sugar-cane, cotton and coffee were grown. In fact, the area contained ten sugar mills, five rum distilleries and a workforce consisting of 607 enslaved Africans and 131 'free' people of colour. Owners of the estates comprised of 19 families (64 whites), including the Dumas, Noel, Dert, Mercie families.


https://www.diffordsguide.com/producers/174/st-lucia-distillers/history


Gros Islet (English: Large Island) is a community near the northern tip of the island country of Saint Lucia, in the Gros Islet Quarter. Originally a quiet fishing village, it has gone on to become one of the more popular tourist destinations in the country.[3]

Settled by the Carib (and possibly Arawak), the area was first identified as Gros Islet in a French map from 1717.[4] The community was a Roman Catholic parish, as the first priests who arrived on the island settled in the village in 1749.[5]


Who were the Carib? - Possibly a carnivore population. 


The Carib Indians were primarily fishing people. They took to sea in their long canoes to catch fish, crabs, and other seafood. Hunters also shot birds and small game. In some Carib communities, farming was an important food source, with cassava, beans, squash, and peppers being grown. Other Carib groups did little farming and acquired peppers and cassava through trade or raiding.

Jan 1, 1894

Samuel Hearne

A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean

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The editor of Samuel Hearne's book travels over the Northern Canadian wilderness 123 years later after Hearne and finds the population had changed from Chipewyans to Eskimos who were dependent entirely on the caribou for food and clothing.

Being possessed of much more than the average amount of ability and enthusiasm, he was chosen by Moses Norton, the energetic Governor of Fort Prince of Wales, to go out with the Indians into the vast, and as far as that was then known, limitless, territory west of Hudson Bay, in order to find and prospect the place where the native copper had been found which the Indians often brought with them to the fort.


During the year preceding his departure on his first expedition, he had had an excellent opportunity to perfect himself in a knowledge of astronomical and geodetic work, for in the summer of 1768 the annual ship had brought William Wales, F.R.S., and Joseph Dymond from London, commissioned by the Royal Society to remain at Fort Prince of Wales throughout the ensuing year in order to observe the transit of Venus over the sun on the 3rd of June 1769.[2] They remained at the fort until the ship left again for London in August of the following year (1769). Mr. Wales was one of the foremost astronomers, mathematicians, and litterateurs of his age. Shortly after his return to England he was appointed to accompany Captain Cook on his voyage around the world in the Resolution in 1772-74, and again on his last voyage in 1776-79. His presence for more than a year among the little band of white men assembled at this remote fur-trading post on Hudson Bay must have had a helpful influence in preparing Hearne for his great explorations overland to the Arctic Ocean. This book is an account of three journeys which he undertook in rapid succession into the country west of Hudson Bay and north-west of Fort Prince of Wales in search of the fabled bed of copper ore, from which pure copper could be loaded directly into ships at trifling expense. In the first and second journeys he was obliged to turn back before reaching his destination, but in the third journey all difficulties were finally overcome, and he was taken to and shown the "mine" of copper.


It has been my good fortune to travel over parts of the same country through which Hearne had journeyed one hundred and twenty-three years before me, and into which no white man had ventured during the intervening time. The conditions which I found were just such as he describes, except that the inhabitants had changed. The Chipewyan Indians, whom he found occupying advantageous positions everywhere as far as the north end of Dubawnt Lake, had disappeared, and in their places the country had been occupied by scattered bands and families of Eskimos, who had almost forgotten the ocean shores of the north, from which they had come. They were depending entirely, for food and clothing, on the caribou, which they killed on the banks of the inland streams and lakes. Traces of old Indian encampments were seen in a few of the scattered groves that are growing along the banks of Dubawnt and Kazan Rivers, but these camps had evidently not been occupied for many years.[3]

Jan 1, 1906

Letters of the present rector of St. Peter's-by-the-Sea, of Sitka, the Reverend Henry H. Chapman.

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Eskimo natives had a range of cooking styles and mostly carnivorous diets but did not suffer from cancer until modern foods entered their diet.

In reply to a further query, the rector wrote again from Sitka on September 16, 1958. He confirmed that he had lived at Anvik all but three of the years between his birth in 1895 and his first journey in 1908 when he went out to become a graduate of Middlebury College, Vermont. “I returned to Anvik as a missionary in 1922 and lived there until 1948, except for furloughs and the four years I was in Fairbanks.

“The native people of the Anvik area are Athapaskans. During my youth the main parts of their food were meat (caribou, rabbits, grouse, waterfowl, beaver, porcupine, black bear and lynx) and fish (salmon, whitefish, shellfish, loche and lampreys). The loche has a large liver which is said to be even richer in vitamins than ordinary cod liver. The Indians also ate raw foods such as berries, wild rhubarb, and a root which they called ‘mouseberries’ because it was gathered and hoarded by field mice.

“They obtained fat from caribou, black bear, and beaver tails. The lampreys were rich in oil, which was highly prized. They also bought seal oil from the Eskimos. Even in my boyhood they supplemented their native diet with white man's food, including lard ...

“The usual way of cooking meat was either boiling or frying. As a boy I was once invited by a party of Indians to eat bear meat with them. It was boiled and well done ... I do not know that any flesh foods were eaten raw, except for dried fish ...”

Neither does the published literature on the forest Indians report that any flesh foods were customarily eaten raw by the forest Indians of Alaska or northern Canada. Indeed, the name “Eskimos” is believed by many to have been derived from an Algonquin expression meaning “they eat their meat raw.”

When I went down north along the Mackenzie, in 1906 and 1908, I now and then heard talk of how horrified the Athapaskans had been when they first saw white men of the Northwest Company and Hudson's Bay Company eating the customary British underdone roast meats. In 1910, when we met the Athapaskans northeast of Great Bear Lake — Dogribs, Slaves, and Yellowknives — we found that they were still mildly horrified to see the Hudson's Bay Company Canadian Joseph Hodgson and the Old Country British John Hornby and Cosmo Melvil, who were then living among them, eating rare caribou steaks and roasts.

In a presentation of evidence regarding the views of frontier doctors on the incidence of cancer, it is of consequence to make clear that early testimony regarding the rarity or absence of malignancies is as clear and strong for the forest Indian north as for the grassland Eskimo country. Some of the early medical missionaries — notably Dr. Hutton in Labrador — have inclined to credit a diet of raw flesh with that former absence of cancer in which they believed. To emphasize this point let me quote again Dr. Hutton's book Health Conditions (1925), Page 35:

“Some diseases common in Europe have no t come under my notice ... Of these diseases the most striking is cancer ... In this connection it may be noted that cookery holds a very secondary place in the preparation of food — most of the food is eaten raw ...”

If only Eskimos are considered, in relation to the alleged former absence of cancer, and of these only the Labradorians, then the logical deduction for one who believes nutrition to be fundamental in relation to malignancy, is that actual rawness of food may be the crucially important cancer-inhibiting factor. But the force of this logic diminishes as we go westward from Labrador, among the Eskimos. Without cancer's appearing at all, cooking grows steadily more important as we move west. From Dr. Hutton's and other accounts, the Labradorians, east of Hudson Bay, were the greatest raw-flesh eaters of the whole Eskimo world. West of the Bay the boiling of flesh increases; and inland from the Bay, among the Caribou Eskimos, the roasting of caribou supplements the boiling. At Coronation Gulf, near where Dr. Jenness and I spent the first years during which the Copper Eskimos ever associated closely with Europeans, the years 1910 to 1915, there was considerable summer use of roasting, though the winter cooking, if any, was by boiling. Among the Mackenzie Eskimos, as described from the 1860's by Father Emile Petitot and from the early 1900's by myself, boiling and roasting were both considerable. These methods were even a bit more common in northern Alaska, as described by John Simpson in the 1850's and Murdoch in the 1880's. In southwestern Alaska as described by Dr. Romig in the manuscript he submitted to our Encyclopedia Antarctica, for the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first one of the twentieth, the cooking of flesh foods reached its Eskimo high point.

Yet the mission testimony, starting from Labrador, remains equally clear, from east to west: the medical missionaries all looked for cancer, and they never found it among the “primitive,” though they did find it among the “modernized.”

Thus clarification is important for whoever expects a nutritional key to this Eskimo cancer situation. Among the Athapaska and western Eskimos cooking was hardly ever carried to the point of “well done,” or “boiled to pieces.” Instead the native meats resembled our fashionable roasts, which have a well-done layer on the outside, medium done just under that, and the center pink or red. And so it was with the forest Indians — at least with those Athapaskans from Great Bear Lake to just west of the Mackenzie, with whom I hunted and lived — though they insisted on some cooking, they were in practice as careful as Eskimo cooks to see that the centers of most pieces were pink.

To sum up the raw and cooked-food elements of northern medical missionary theorizing about cancer:

During the time when large numbers of non-Europeanized northern natives were allegedly free of cancer, there was little cooking of flesh foods beyond the degree which we call medium. Among grassland and coastal Eskimos raw flesh eating ranged from a great deal in northern Labrador to a good deal in southwestern Alaska. Only among forest Indians were raw flesh foods avoided, and even among these there was little use of overcooked flesh.

Vegetable foods, where eaten at all, were always raw, among prairie and woodland natives alike. Among Eskimos, vegetable foods were important only in the farthest west — along the west coast of Alaska, among the Aleutians, and along the south coast of Alaska. In the most northerly region from Baffin Island, Canada, to Point Barrow, Alaska, vegetable eating was negligible, except in time of famine. Among woodland Indians, vegetables were negligible with the Athapaskans from the west shore of Hudson Bay to beyond the Mackenzie. In Alaska the eating of raw vegetables by forest Indians increased westward along the northern belt and then increased still more southward, into the country of the Tlingit.

During the time when the medical missionaries reported cancer difficult or impossible to find among large numbers of primitive natives, there was no usual cooking of any vegetables, whether among grassland or forest natives. The cooking of vegetables is part of that Europeanization which is considered by some missionaries to be responsible for the introduction of cancer, or for the change from its being hard to find to its being impossible not to notice.

The European-style application of intense heat to food through frying was new to all northern North American natives.

May 2, 1906

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimos - Chapter 2

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Stefansson describes the dietary habits of the Mackenzie Valley population, in terms of their inability to grow much produce and their dependence upon meat and fish and especially fat in terms of preventing rabbit starvation.

There are many people in the Mackenzie district who have given me much valuable information about their country, the greater part of which , however, has to be omitted here, but few men perhaps know the country better than Father Giroux, formerly stationed at Arctic Red River but now in charge of Providence. He says it is true in the Mackenzie district, as it is among the Arctic Eskimo, that measles is the deadliest of all diseases. There have been several epidemics, so that it might be supposed that the most susceptible had been weeded out, and yet the last epidemic (1903) killed about one fifth of the entire population of the Mackenzie Valley . He had noticed also a distinct and universal difference in health between those who wear white men's clothing and who live in white men's houses, as opposed to those who keep the ancient customs in the matter of dress and dwellings. These same elements I have since found equally harmful among the Eskimo, although among them must be added the surely no less dangerous element, the white men's diet, which is no more suited to the people than white men's clothing or houses. 


Grains and vegetables of most kinds, and even strawberries, are successfully cultivated at Providence. North of that, the possible agricultural products get fewer and fewer, until finally the northern limit of successful potato growing is reached near Fort Good Hope, on the Arctic Circle. Potatoes are grown farther north, but they do not mature and are not of good quality. 


In certain things the Mackenzie district was more advanced the better part of a century ago than it is now; the explorers of Franklin's parties, for instance, found milk cows at every Hudson's Bay post and were able to get milk and cream as far north as the Arctic Circle and even beyond. At that time, too, every post had large stores of dried meat and pemmican, so that if you had the good-will of the Company you could always stock up with provisions anywhere. Now this is all changed. Game has become so scarce that it would be difficult for the Company, even if they tried, to keep large stores of meat on hand. The importation of foodstuffs from the outside, on the other hand, has not grown easy as yet, and it is therefore much more difficult to buy provisions now than it was in Franklin's time. The trading posts are located now exactly where Franklin found them, so that taking this into consideration, and the decrease of game all over the northern country, it is clear that exploration on such a plan as ours — that of living on the country —is more difficult now than it was a hundred years ago. Another element that makes the situation more risky is that while then you could count on finding Indians anywhere who could supply you with provisions, or at least give you information as to where game might be found, now there are so few of the Indians left alive , —and all of those left are so concentrated around the trading posts , —that you may go hundreds of miles without seeing a camp or a trail, where seventy-five or a hundred years ago you would have found the trails crossing each other and might have seen the camp smokes rising here and there. 


The food supplies of the different posts vary according to location . In general the trading stations are divided into "fish posts" and “meat posts.” Fort Smith is a typical meat post, for caribou are found in the neighborhood and moose also; and the Indians not only get meat enough for themselves and for the white men, but the fur traders even find the abundance of the meat supply a handicap in their business, - for the Indian who has plenty to eat does not trap so energetically as do others who must pay in fur for some of their food. Resolution, Hay River, and Providence, on the other hand, are fish posts, while at any of the northern trading stations potatoes nowadays play a considerable part in the food supply, even as far up as Good Hope. In certain places and in certain years rabbits are an important article of diet, but even when there is an abundance of this animal, the Indians consider themselves starving if they get nothing else, and fairly enough, as my own party can testify, for any one who is compelled in winter to live for a period of several weeks on lean-meat will actually starve, in this sense: that there are lacking from his diet certain necessary elements, notably fat, and it makes no difference how much he eats, he will be hungry at the end of each meal, and eventually he will lose strength or become actually ill. The Eskimo who have provided themselves in summer with bags of seal oil can carry them into a rabbit country and can live on rabbits satisfactorily for months. The Indian, unfortunately for him, has no animal in his country so richly supplied with fat as is the seal, and nowadays he will make an effort to buy a small quantity of bacon to eat with his rabbits, unless he has a little caribou or moose fat stored up from the previous autumn.

Jun 1, 1906

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 3

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Stefansson talks about Mr. Thomas Anderson of the Hudson Bay Company "much of his talk concerned the degenerate later days when people insisted on living on such imported things as beans, canned corn, and tomatoes, whereas in his day they lived entirely on fish and caribou meat."

On my first trip down the Mackenzie River all of the affairs of the Company had been under the direction of Mr. Thomas Anderson, an energetic and capable officer of the old school. He was a man generous to a fault with his own property, as I have good reason to know through being with him in Winnipeg and Edmonton, but as soon as he got into the North where everything he handled belonged to the Company rather than to himself, he became parsimonious even to niggardliness ; and much of his talk concerned the degenerate later days when people insisted on living on such imported things as beans, canned corn, and tomatoes, whereas in his day they lived entirely on fish and caribou meat. Now everything was changed. Not only had the modern Mackenzie River replaced the old - fashioned Wrigley, but Thomas Anderson had died, and the affairs of the Company were under the no less energetic but completely modern direction of Mr. Brabant. I remember how, in 1906, Mr. Anderson boiled with indignation at having to carry one of the servants of the Hislop & Nagle Trading Company as a passenger for sixty miles from Red River to Macpherson, and he spoke with suppressed fury of the degenerate officials at Winnipeg who compelled him to countenance such things; and now we had in his stead Mr. Brabant, who would have been the better pleased the more of his rivals' men he could have carried, providing, of course, they paid him fares for transportation which yielded a profit to the Company. The change had been gradually taking place, but with the coming of Mr. Brabant the transformation was complete, from the old policy of exclusion of competitors to the modern one of unrestricted competition.

Jul 23, 1906

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 3

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Stefansson stays at Fort Macpherson and preps for living off the land. He also describes a story of deaths caused by eating poised white whale.

During my stay at Fort Macpherson I was the guest of Major Jarvis. The rest of the policemen occupied the barracks on top of the high bluffs that here flank the eastern side of the Peel, but the Major preferred a tent by himself down by the riverside. Soon after our arrival, the Eskimo boats began to come from the North and the Major's tent became the center of a village of their tents. Most of the Eskimo were old friends among whom I had lived on my previous expedition. There was much talking and laughter, and apparently they were very glad to see me, but no more glad, I am sure, than I was to see them, for I had reason to consider some of them among my best friends in the world. Under their communistic system of living the Eskimo have developed the social virtues to a considerably higher degree than we have; they are therefore people easy to live with, and one readily makes friends among them, but, of course, they differ individually as we do. Of all those who came here this summer the finest, in my estimation, was Ovayuak, a man who had been my host for several months during 1906–1907. The Hudson's Bay Company had recognized in him the same qualities which were apparent to me, and had accordingly made him a “Chief,” which merely means that he is the Company's accredited representa tive among his countrymen , and acts, in a sense, as the Company's agent. In talking with Ovayuak I found that many of my acquaintances of a few years before were dead, some of them of consumption, some of unknown diseases, and a group of eight had been poisoned by eating the meat of a freshly killed white whale. It happens every now and then that a whole party of natives is killed by eating white whale meat. This sort of thing is referred to by the whalers ordinarily as ptomaine poisoning; but it can scarcely be that, as I have seen tons of semi- decayed whale meat eaten and have never known a single case of sickness or death connected therewith, while the poisonings always occur at feasts which are held immediately after the killing of a whale, or else from whale meat that has been cut up promptly after the killing and stored so as to largely or entirely prevent its decay. On the lower posts of the Mackenzie River and here at Mac pherson we had gradually been picking up such dogs as were for sale, and now had eleven all together. So as to put in operation as early as possible our principle of living on the country, we began here to set our fish nets to get food for ourselves and the dogs, but there were so many other nets in the water that we got very little, and I had to buy a few hundred pounds of dried fish to eke out.


We reached the open ocean July 23d, but were delayed here somewhat by strong winds, for, like the delta flats of any other river, the Mackenzie mouth is an exceedingly dangerous place in a high wind, when mountainous breakers roll in from the open sea. On the 24th we reached the first Eskimo camp on the coast, at a place called Niakonak, just after the sudden death of a woman and young girl from white whale poisoning. This is another of the cases I have since heard referred to by mounted policemen and whalers as ptomaine poisoning. But the Eskimo explain it by saying that the women died because they made some caribou skin into garments the day after they ate white whale. In other words, they had broken a taboo. Personally, I agree neither with the policemen nor the Eskimo. It seems to me the poisoning could scarcely have been ptomaine, because the meal after which the women sickened took place within three or four hours after the animal was killed; in fact, the pieces of meat were put right into the pot the moment they were cut from the animal.

Dec 1, 1907

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 3

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The ships brought, too, an abundance of provisions. At first the Eskimo would have nothing to do with any of these ; but in the course of a few years they learned the use of flour, molasses, sugar, etc. , which became first luxuries and then necessities. It was important for the whaling ships to get plenty of fresh caribou meat to keep their crews from getting scurvy, and they employed practically the whole population in the pursuit of caribou, fish , and ptarmigan.

When we reached Herschel Island , we did not go to the village in the northeast corner where the mounted police barracks are situated as well as the Eskimo village, both of which are there because of the sandspit that makes the whalemen's harbor. This is not only an excellent harbor in summer, but also a nearly ideal wintering place for the whaling vessels which are shielded by the sandspit from the pressure of the ocean ice. We pitched our camp on Flanders Point on the southeast corner of the island, for that is the best fishing place in the neighborhood, and we were here able to get not only fish enough for ourselves and our dogs, but also were able to lay by a considerable store for our expected boat journey. The first whaling ship reached Herschel Island in 1889, and for a few years thereafter the industry prospered greatly. It was immensely profitable, and at times as many as fourteen ships wintered in the Arctic at one time. This had a sudden effect on the fortunes of the Eskimo. Before that time they had been in the habit of making summer trading voyages up to Fort Macpherson to buy a few small things, but now, when this large whaling fleet came, all their conditions of life were changed. All of the articles which they had been used to buying, they could now get cheaply or for nothing from the whalers, and they soon learned the use of a great many other articles, the very names and appearances of which were unknown to them before – articles which even the Hudson's Bay factor at Macpherson had been compelled to do without. The ships brought, too, an abundance of provisions. At first the Eskimo would have nothing to do with any of these ; but in the course of a few years they learned the use of flour, molasses, sugar, etc. , which became first luxuries and then necessities. It was important for the whaling ships to get plenty of fresh caribou meat to keep their crews from getting scurvy, and they employed practically the whole population in the pursuit of caribou, fish , and ptarmigan . Such things as flour, hard bread, sugar, canned meats and vegetables, butter, etc., they gave with a free hand to the Eskimo, urging them to use them and to save meat.. The Eskimo of course preferred meat as an article of diet, and now they were further impressed with the fact that the white man seemed to consider meat of priceless value and the other food articles of little value or none. Meat, therefore, came to have a fabulous price compared with other commodities, and during the time of my experience in the North, a pound of meat has been worth more than a pound of any article of civilized diet except tea. 


It would be a matter of too great detail to enter here into the minute causes of the change in the Eskimo’s habits of life, but the net result is that although the time from 1889 to 1906 is but a few years, still there has been greater change wrought among the Eskimo during that time than the Hudson's Bay Company has been responsible for among any of the northern Indians in a hundred years. The condition was now, therefore, serious, for the whaling industry was beginning to show the signs of a gradual breakdown, which has since terminated in a complete collapse of the industry . The winter of 1907–1908, only one ship, the Karluk, commanded by Captain James Wing, had wintered at Herschel Island, and he had been so short of provisions and trading articles that the Eskimo considered them selves to be suffering for want of many things to which they were used. It is true, as experience has since shown, that in the absence of whalers the Eskimo of the Mackenzie River are able to live per fectly well on the game and fish of the country; but they did not think so themselves the summer of 1908, any more than those of us used to high living think we can get along on the simple fare of the poor. The mounted police agreed with them in this, and every one therefore considered that they were facing a critical winter. Whaling ships had been expected, but none came. Finally, August 15th, the Karluk came in sight from the east, returning from the Banks Island summer whaling cruise. I went over to see Captain Wing and found that he was very short of stores ; indeed he was completely out of sugar and potatoes and many other articles, and had only a little flour left, but plenty of meat.

Dec 30, 1907

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Wolf and Fox

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The Eskimo frequently eat White Foxes, and consider the meat very good, particularly when it is fat.

Canis occidentalis Richardson . Gray Wolf. A -ma-rok (Alaskan and Mackenzie Eskimo). 


The wolves of the Barren Grounds have been described as a separate form, the Barren Ground Wolf ( Canis occidentalis albus Sabine), on account of the supposedly lighter color of Wolves from that region . My experience has been that Wolves of every shade of color from black to almost white are found together on the Arctic coast from Alaska to Coronation Gulf. Wolves of anything near a pure white color are very rare. 


The typical Arctic wolf is light tawny yellowish in color, with a few black hairs intermingled along the median line of the back. The common Eskimo belief is that the white wolves are old wolves, but we have observed a dark old female wolf with white cubs. A specimen taken on the Hula -hula River, Alaska, was nearly pure black head and face jet-black , tail somewhat fulvous, belly grayish . Other " black " wolves were seen at Langton Bay, Horton River, Great Bear Lake, and Coronation Gulf. An unusual specimen, a decrepit old male, was shot near Dease River — a sort of silvery gray, with white and black hairs mingled, like a “good” Cross Fox or “poor” Silver Fox. The “good wolf” of the particular shade prized by the western Eskimo for trimming clothing must be well- furred, with the hair long, the median portion of each hair whitish , and each hair black -tipped . When cut into strips, it should show : first, a dense layer of " fur” next to the skin, then a band of whitish, and a peripheral band of black or dusky. Such a skin is prized more highly than any other, even more than the most fashionable shade of pale yellow Wolverine fur. Wolves are found in greatest numbers where the Caribou are most abundant, and follow the herds continuously. A compact herd is seldom attacked outright, but stragglers are cut off and run down. The Caribou are swifter for a time, but the Wolf is tireless and seldom loses a Caribou which he has started. Large packs of Wolves are seldom seen in the regions we visited, four or five being about the limit. About fifty miles east of Coppermine I saw a female wolf which had been killed by Eskimo at her den with four cubs, June 30, 1911. The cubs' eyes were still unopened . The old wolf was yellowish colored, the cubs umber brown. One cub was a runt, not much bigger than a Spermophile (C. parryi), the other three were much larger.


Vulpes alascensis Merriam . Alaska Red Fox. Red Fox — Kai yok'tok (Alaskan Eskimo), Auk-pi-lak'tok (Mackenzie Eskimo ). Cross Fox — Kri- a -ntok (Alaskan Eskimo), Ki- a -ser - ő - til -lik (Mackenzie Eskimo) . Silver or Black Fox – Ker-a-nek'tok (Alaskan Eskimo), Magʻrok (Mackenzie Eskimo). 


The Red Fox in its varying phases is only rarely found north of the northern limit of trees. A good many Cross Foxes, a few Silver grays, and occasionally a Black Fox are taken in the Mackenzie delta. Occasionally a Silver Fox comes out on the coast; a good specimen was caught near Cape Bathurst in 1911. Every possible shade of intergradation in color is found from the bright rufous Red Fox, through various shades of dusky cross markings on back, shoulders, and hips; specimens with only traces of fulvous on shoulders; backs with silvery and black intermingled, and very rarely the jet-black. All phases have a prominent white tip to the tail. Very few “colored” foxes are found around the eastern end of Great Bear Lake, and practically none around Coronation Gulf.


Alopex lagopus innuitus Merriam . Continental Arctic Fox. TY ra -ga'ni-ok ( Eskimo from Bering Sea to Coronation Gulf). 


Common almost everywhere along the Arctic coast, but seldom goes far inland in any numbers. The White Foxes are found to a large extent on the salt-water ice in winter, and Polar Bear tracks are very commonly followed by Foxes, which pick up a living from offal of Seals killed by the Bears. A stranded whale's carcass will usually attract large numbers of foxes. An Eskimo man and boy in our employ caught about one hundred and forty during the winter of 1910–1911 around Langton Bay, and another Eskimo at Cape Bathurst caught one hundred and ninety six White Foxes the same winter. The next winter the latter caught only two, nobody caught more than twenty, and few over six. The White Fox is the staple fur of the Arctic coast, and the common medium of exchange everywhere west of Cape Parry. In summer the White Foxes are bluish gray, maltese color on back, head dusky mixed with silvery white, belly dirty yellowish white. Skins rarely become prime, i.e. , pure white with long fur, before December 1st, and the hair usually begins to get loose by the last of March. The Eskimo frequently eat White Foxes, and consider the meat very good, particularly when it is fat. The White Foxes are fairly common at the edge of the Barren Grounds near east end of Great Bear Lake, and an Eskimo of our party caught about thirty during the winter of 1910–1911. An Alaskan Eskimo trapping near the mouth of the Coppermine River the same winter caught nearly one hundred. The Hudson Bay Company's agent informed me that one White Fox skin was taken during the winter of 1907-1908, at Smith's Landing, and one at Fort Chipewyan. Several skins are usually taken at Fond du Lac ( east end of Lake Athabaska) every winter. 


The Arctic Fox is much less suspicious than the Red, Cross, or Silver Foxes, and will enter almost any kind of trap. The common method of trapping is to cut a shallow hole in the snow, just deep enough for the open steel trap to lie below the level of surrounding snow . Then a slab of lightly packed snow, just hard enough to lift without cracking, is cut just large enough to cover the trap. This slab is laid carefully over the trap, and then shaved and smoothed with great care. The snow slab should be just thick enough to support its own weight and brittle enough to be easily broken when an animal steps on it. A few chips of blubber, fish , or meat are shaved off, and scattered loosely and carelessly over and around the vicinity of the trap —just enough to give a scent and cause the fox to hunt around until the trap is sprung. If a fox is caught by both feet, he is usually frozen to death by morning, or even if caught by one foot, if the night is cold. Foxes sometimes gnaw off a trapped foot, but only below the place where caught, and then probably after the foot is frozen and insensible to pain. Sometimes a little box-like snow-house is built over a trap, usually of four blocks of snow , three sides and roof, leaving one side open to the leeward . The bait is placed at the further end of the house so that the fox must step directly over the trap to get it. The White Foxes are said to have seven, eight, nine, or ten young at a birth. I examined one female which had ten embryos April 20th, 1910. The young become very tame if taken at an early age, and are extremely active and playful. 


Blue Fox — Kai- a -ni-rak'tok ( Colville River Eskimo ). Ig -raʼlik (Mackenzie Eskimo). The blue phase of coloration of the White Fox, known as “Blue Fox,” is pretty rare east of western Alaska. During the winter of 1910 four Blue Foxes were taken in midwinter near Cape Parry. Two of the skins were maltese gray with ends of hairs washed with brownish ; the other, considered the “best” skin, was dark brown, almost black , with scanty traces of bluish color. A specimen taken by one of our Eskimo off Cape Parry in February had back light slaty gray, fading posteriorly; tail nearly white above, darker below ; head dark slaty blue ; under parts darker, washed with dull brownish. One taken near Toker Point, April 25th, was a very pale specimen, head and shoulders light brownish, sides slightly bluish, and tail nearly white; in general, much like a midsummer White Fox.

May 12, 1908

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 2

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The Native Americans around Bear Lake would buy civilized clothing that was expensive and not warm enough for the winter, while also purchasing sweet and expensive foods, just to say they are fashionable and modern.

Here, as in many other places on the river, we saw examples of the improvidence of the Indians. Even in winter they dress in imported cloth garments which are far more expensive and not half so warm as the clothing they could make out of the skins of the animals they kill. But similar things occur the world over. Perhaps it should not be regarded as strange, but rather as a proof of the universal brotherhood of man , that the Northern Indian would rather shiver in fashionable attire than be comfortable in the furs which are cheap and therefore unaristocratic. On Bear Lake I have known them to sell caribou skins at fifty cents apiece to buy a duck coat at eight or ten dollars, when two caribou skins would have made a much warmer garment. An Indian woman at Smith Landing, while we were there, traded twenty suckers, which was food enough for a week, for one pound of tinned salmon, which did not make even a meal for her, and this at a time when she had been on short rations for several days on account of the want of fish, and when the twenty fish were all she had caught. Chocolate, imported English jams and marmalade, candies, and ribbons are the staple wares of these posts nowadays. It must be said that it was a part of the generally wise policy of the Hudson's Bay Company not to encourage among the Indians the development of these expensive tastes which it is so difficult for them to find the means to satisfy, but of late years the Company has had to follow where other traders have led them and now , instead of taking into the country what they consider good for the Indian, they are forced to take in anything that the Indian will buy. It is only the wise laws of the land that have determined that these articles shall be candies and sweetmeats instead of brandies and gin.


Page 18-19


We started from Fort Smith June 11th and that afternoon stopped at the mouth of the Salt River to buy salt from the Indians, which they get nearly pure in a bed exposed a few miles upstream . They bring it down to the mouth of the Salt River, where they keep it for trading purposes, supplying the entire Mackenzie district with salt. The Indians everywhere along the river are dressed in general like white men . Many of them speak English, often with a broad Scotch accent, for most of the Hudson's Bay factors, through a whole hundred years or more of the continuous occupation of the Mackenzie valley, have been Scotchmen and Orkneymen. Although practically unknown to science, these Indians are thoroughly sophisticated and have to a large extent forgotten the manners and customs of their ancestors . They are all Christianized, with the exception of one small tribe who live in the mountains westward from Fort Providence. It is a remarkable thing, as we have it from the stories of James Mackinlay and Joseph Hodgson and others who know them well, that this one tribe keep with jealousy the customs, religion, and language of their ancestors. They come down to Fort Providence to trade every summer, but they have nothing to do with the Chris tianized Indians, nor with the white men, except in so far as they are compelled to in the mere matter of trading. These Indians are said by the Hudson's Bay men to differ strikingly from the rest of the natives in being more enterprising, more honorable, and thoroughly self-respecting. Up to four years ago, at least, they had constantly refused to take presents from the Canadian government, a thing which all the other Indians do under the name of "treaty money.” An arrangement was made a few years ago by which all the Indians, with the one exception noted, as far north as Fort Providence, signed away their “tribal rights ” in consideration of the payment to them every year by the Canadian government of five dollars in money, and small presents of tea, flour, and other articles of trade. 


This is an arrangement which for the present at any rate does not seem to be doing the Indians any good, for they lose much valuable time in coming from great distances to the trading posts to wait for the “ treaty parties ” of the Indian Department; but the arrangement at least furnishes employment, no doubt both pleasant and profit able, to a few white men who come each year bearing gifts and who make the annual round of the tribes. There is with them a doctor, usually, who takes a glance at whatever sick and maimed there may be in the Indian villages, and who no doubt picks up information of interest about the condition of the natives ; but he could scarcely be supposed to do them much good, directly, by this one visit a year. It would be much more to the advantage of the Indian if the Canadian government would do as the Danish government does in Greenland, and instead of sending these expensive parties on perfunctory visits, should station a medical man every two hundred or three hundred miles so that his services could be available when needed.

Jun 1, 1908

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Bison and Musk-Oxen

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The hunting habits of the wood bison and the musk-oxen are described in the Arctic by the Eskimo.

Bison bison athabascæ Rhoads. Wood Bison. 


According to the estimates made by Major W. H. Routledge, R.N.W.M.P., who was in charge of the Buffalo protection at Fort Smith in 1908, there are probably not more than three hundred left. The number of Buffaloes in the region is difficult to estimate, as they range in small scattered bands west of the Slave River, from Salt River on the south to Hay River on the north. This remnant of the once great herds is pretty thoroughly protected now, although the wolves are said to kill a good many. 


Ovibos moschatus (Zimmermann ). Musk-ox. U -miñ -mŭk (Es kimo). Et-jir -er (Slavey Indian, Great Bear Lake). 


No living Musk - oxen have probably been seen in Alaska at a later date than 1860-1865, although horns, skulls, and bones in a good state of preservation are to be found in various places from Point Barrow to the Colville River. None have been seen west of Liverpool Bay within the past twenty-five years. Around Franklin Bay, Langton Bay, and the lower part of Horton River, Musk-oxen were fairly common until about 1897. The first vessel that went into Langton Bay to winter (fall of 1897) saw Musk-oxen on the hills, looking from the deck of the ship. During 1897–1898 four ships wintered at Langton Bay, and over eighty Musk-oxen were killed, mainly by Alaskan Eskimo hunting for the ships. Some of the meat was hauled to the ships, but most of the animals were killed too far away for the meat to be hauled in, and the bulk of the robes were left out too late in the spring thaws, so that very little use was made of anything. Since that time no traces of living Musk-oxen have been seen in the region, either by natives who occasionally hunt there, or by our party during nearly three years. In March, 1902, a party of Alaskan Eskimo made an extended journey to the southeast and east of Darnley Bay and killed twenty-seven . This was without doubt the last killing of Musk-oxen by Eskimo west of Dolphin and Union Straits. In the summer of 1910 Mr. Stefánsson and his Eskimo found numerous Musk-ox droppings of the previous winter around the Lake Immaëřnrk, the head of Dease River. We spent the greater part of the winter of 1910–1911 on the east branch of Dease River and eastern end of Great Bear Lake, but saw no recent signs of Musk-oxen. That same winter the Bear Lake Indians made an unsuccessful hunt to the northeast of Great Bear Lake. Two or three years before they had made a big hunt in this region and killed about eighty. In February or March, 1911, the Indians killed three Musk -oxen near the end of Caribou Point, the only specimens seen in the whole region that winter. Apparently the Musk-ox is seldom if ever found in the region of western Coronation Gulf around the mouths of Rae River, Richardson River, or the lower portion of the Coppermine River. Quite a number of Eskimo hunt in this region, and they say that the Musk -oxen are all farther to the east. Some old men in the Rae River region had never seen a Musk-ox . The number of Musk-oxen now living west of the lower Coppermine River is very small and probably confined to the rather small area of high, rocky barrens comprised in the triangle whose apices are Darnley Bay, Coronation and the north side of Great Bear Lake. From all the information we could get from the Coronation Gulf Eskimo, Musk-oxen are seldom if ever seen near the mainland coast less than seventy - five miles east of the mouth of the Coppermine River. It seems probable from in formation which Mr. Stefánsson received from numerous groups of Eskimo in Coronation Gulf, Dolphin and Union Straits, and Prince Albert Sound, that no Musk-oxen at all are found in either the southern or central portions of Victoria Island (i.e. Wollaston Land, Victoria Land, Prince Albert Land). Some of these Eskimo remember of the former occurrence of the Musk-ox around Minto Inlet and Walker Bay, but say there are now none in that region. It is their belief, however, that Musk-oxen are still found near the north coast of Victoria Island. Musk-oxen are said to be still common on Banks Island. The Musk-oxen are so readily killed, often to the last animal in a herd, that the species cannot hold its own against even the most primitive weapons, and the advent of modern rifles means speedy extinction .

Aug 15, 1908

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 3

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Stefansson complains about a man who wouldn't lend him matches to survive off of hunting alone. "We could not agree on the possibility of a white man making a living in the country . I told him that I needed but matches to be safe and independent, but he believed that a white man needed twelve months' provisions of white man's food in order to live twelve months in the country."

My opinion agreed with that of no one else with regard to the prospects for the coming winter. It seemed to me the condition was nowise serious. I had lived with the Eskimo the year before and had seen what an abundance of fish there was in the eastern channels of the Mackenzie delta, and I knew that fish and caribou were also plentiful farther east. But the whalers had never seen Eskimo living any where except around whaling ships and dependent on them; neither had the mounted police, and, consequently, it seemed to all of them that the district was facing a period of starvation. For myself and my party I did not worry however, except for one thing, — that I had no matches. When by the 15th of August it began to seem likely that no ships would come, I went to the mounted police and explained to them that I had everything that I considered necessary for making a living for myself and my party in the country with the exception of matches, and asked them to give, lend, or sell my party a sufficient quantity to do us the winter. This the commanding officer, Sergeant Fitzgerald , refused to do. He told me that if I would discharge all my Eskimo ( I had then engaged a party of nine all told) , and if Dr. Anderson and I would live for the winter in a small house which he would assign to us near the barracks, then he would supply us with not only matches, but also everything that we needed to eat. It was in vain I explained to him that we had not come to the country for the purpose of spending a winter at Herschel Island. His point of view was that he did not know or care why we had come, but he did know that we were now destitute and likely to die of starvation, and it was his duty to supply us, in a way that suited him, with sufficient food to keep us from actual want. We could not agree on the possibility of a white man making a living in the country. I told him that I needed but matches to be safe and independent, but he believed that a white man needed twelve months' provisions of white man's food in order to live twelve months in the country. He pointed out that according to his view one of two things was sure to happen if he gave us matches : either we should go to the eastward as far as the most easterly civilized settlement, four hundred miles to the eastward at the Baillie Islands, and there become a charge upon those natives, — in other words, we were in competent to look after ourselves, and so would have to be taken care of by the Baillie Islands Eskimo, -or, in the other event, if we unwisely left the Baillie Islands settlement behind and went into the uninhabited district, we should surely starve to death , and he did not want, as an officer of the Government, to be a party to either event. He further informed me that the laws of the Yukon gave him a right to ship Dr. Anderson and me out of the country because we had no visible means of support. But, he said, seeing he could accomplish the same result by refusing us matches, he would prefer that method, and let us go west to Point Barrow for them. He knew that we would then winter at Point Barrow , where the whaling station has abundant stores, and where we should be in no danger of starving.

Sep 1, 1908

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 4

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Stefansson explains how the herds of caribou have been exterminated from Alaska to the detriment of all.

I had been compelled to come to Point Barrow for the lack of matches, but now that I was there I needed a great many other things, for the season was so short that I could not possibly get east to the Mackenzie River before the freeze -up. Instead of being able to winter in a region well supplied with fish and game, as I should have been had I obtained matches at Herschel Island, I was now compelled to winter on the northern coast of Alaska, where ten years before there had been vast herds of caribou , but where there now is practically no game at all. The let-alone policy of the Government, the cupidity of traders, and the ignorance of the Eskimo themselves have practically destroyed the caribou as the buffalo was destroyed in our own West. The situation here, however, was fundamentally different. In the West the destruction of the buffalo was a necessity, for he cumbered the land which the farmers needed for the planting of crops; but the caribou graze on lands where no crops will ever grow. Shooting buffalo for their hides and for sport destroyed them a few yearsbefore they would have had to go anyway; but the shooting of the caribou for the same reasons cannot be similarly extenuated, for had no more been killed than were needed for food and clothing for the population of the country itself, they would have lasted in definitely, and would have been forever an economic resource not only for the Eskimo but for the country at large. 


As there could be no hope of our party “living on the country ” the coming winter, I had to buy from the whaling vessels food enough to take us through twelve months. I had no money, for I expected to buy nothing in the Arctic, but fortunately, several of the whaling captains knew me and realized the circumstances; I had there fore no trouble in getting what I needed.