Historical Events

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An Eskimo heaven also is mentioned--Kowiasokvik--The Place of Happiness. It is something like the Indians' Happy Hunting Ground, a material paradise, overflowing with game, a haven where there is no hunger, no cold, no misery, where the dogs are always fresh and the snow always the right consistency. You get to Kowiasokvik by doing what the shamans say, wearing your amulets, observing the tabus, and following the Eskimo moral code, which is quite different from ours.

January 1, 1951

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Inuk

Roger Buliard

Religion
Eskimo

Amulets, tokens, charms, magic spells, tabus...How much do the Inuit remember from the pool of common knowledge?


Once I was telling them the story of the Flood. An old man became quite excited, and finally interrupted me. Yes, he agreed, in their stories too was the legend of the Great Tide that had swamped the world, drowning all but two or three Eskimos, who had retreated to the peak of a mighty mountain. 


An Eskimo heaven also is mentioned--Kowiasokvik--The Place of Happiness. It is something like the Indians' Happy Hunting Ground, a material paradise, overflowing with game, a haven where there is no hunger, no cold, no misery, where the dogs are always fresh and the snow always the right consistency. You get to Kowiasokvik by doing what the shamans say, wearing your amulets, observing the tabus, and following the Eskimo moral code, which is quite different from ours.


Goodness, according to Eskimo standards, is not a personal but a social matter entirely. An Eskimo may be a sexual monster, a child murderer, a drunkard, a thief, a liar, and a brute. If he is a good hunter, his reputation will be unclouded. After all the Eskimos reason, he was not born for his name to grace the pages of the Alamanach de Gotha, but to kill caribou. If he kills plenty of caribou, he is a good community breadwinner, hence a good fellow, worthy of respect. What he does privately, so far as killing his children or raping his neighbor's daugter is concerned--well, that's nobody's business, really, is it? When he dies he is sure to go to the happy hunting grounds of the Eskimo hereafter. 


There is an interesting parallel here between Eskimo morality and the morality advertised in the Soviet Union, where the greatest crimes are those against the state. A man may be a brute, a contemptible character personally, but if he's thought of as a good communist, a loyal servant of the Soviet state, why, proletarian ethics takes care of it all and he's a hero. If there is a communist Kowiasokvik, he is certain of a reserved seat.


The Eskimo hunter, after death, is always provided with certain necessities, things he will need in that other hunting ground. Beside his body, on some hilltop, will be placed his knife, harpoon, and rifle, and you find these things all over the countryside, mixed with the bones that the foxes have left. Beside the bodies of women they leave stone lamps, needles, and cooking utensils. Her job in Kowiasokvik, it seems, will be the same old round of cooking, sewing, and interminably tending the recalcitrant seal-oil lamp.


One only hopes that a Chief far greater than Atanek, a Chief to whom the Inuit did not pray, may have given his welcome to the weary Eskimo hunters. Surely the Redeemer, Who came for all sinners, will not have refused the poor Inuk, the poor wanderer from the frozen steppes, whose journey certainly has been longer and harder than that endured by most men.