Historical Events

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Besides that, this is the season which the Eskimo give up to the accumulation of blubber for the coming year. Fresh oil is not nearly so palatable or digestible as oil that has been allowed to ferment in a sealskin bag through the summer. A single family's store of oil for the fall will run from nine hundred to two thousand pounds.

May 1, 1911

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My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 17

Man The Fat Hunter
Facultative Carnivore
Eskimo
Carnivore Diet

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Just northeast of the east end of Lambert Islandwe found, as we had expected, the village of the Noahanirgmiut Eskimo, con sisting chiefly of old friends and hunting companions of ours from the Bear Lake hunt of the summer before, but there were with them also a few families we had not seen. The Eskimo visit about a great deal, and although it is always possible for any one to say, “ This is the village of such and such a people,” still you are almost sure to find in any village members of one or more other tribes and generally of several. These visits are sometimes temporary, but commonly a family leaves its own tribe and joins another to be with it a period of a year, returning home at the end of that time, although sometimes the visit is only for a summer. A man who is in need of a new sled or a new bow, but whose own tribe hunts in a woodless country, may, for instance, join for the summer hunt a group that intends to go south to Bear Lake, in order to supply himself with the wood he needs. The Noahanirgmiut were still living on seal meat and were making no attempt to kill any of the numerous caribou that were continually migrating past. I thought at first that there might be some taboo preventing them from hunting caribou on the ice, but this they told me was not so. It was simply that they had never hunted caribou on the ice and had not considered it possible. It would in fact be a fairly hopeless thing for them to try it; and while no doubt some of them might occasionally secure an animal, they would waste so much time that the number of pounds of meat they obtained in a week's hunt in that way would be but a small fraction of the amount of seal meat they might have secured in the same time. Besides that, this is the season which the Eskimo give up to the accumulation of blubber for the coming year. Fresh oil is not nearly so palatable or digestible as oil that has been allowed to ferment in a sealskin bag through the summer, and besides that it is difficult often to get seals in the fall . By getting seals in the spring, therefore, they secure an agreeable article of diet for the coming autumn and provide themselves as well with a sort of insurance against hard luck in the fall hunt. Each family will in the spring be able to lay away from three to seven bags of oil. Such a bag consists of the whole skin of the common seal. The animal has been skinned through the mouth in such a way that the few necessary openings in the skin can be easily sewed up or tied up with a thong. This makes a bag which will hold about three hundred pounds of blubber, so that a single family's store of oil for the fall will run from nine hundred to two thousand pounds. 


To completely test the matter of whether there was a taboo or not, as well as to provide ourselves with fresh meat and our friends with a feast, Natkusiak and I intercepted one of the bands out of which he shot one and I shot three, two of the three, by the way, being killed in one shot as the animals were running past at a dis tance of about three hundred yards. The Eskimo immediately went at the skinning energetically, and I photographed them while they were at it . The meat was then cut up and divided equitably among all the families and the cooking began at once.