Historical Events

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It is a tradition in the Far North that one's door must stand open to all who happen to pass and that food must be set before all guests. Hospitality is the law of the land, and the man who breaks this law in the end will suffer most. Indians would save people of scurvy with the cure of fresh caribou blood or spruce-needle tea.

October 20, 1926

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The Land of Feast and Famine - Log Cabin

Facultative Carnivore
Scurvy
Carnivore Diet

Helge Ingstad

One day Dale went out beaver-hunting, leaving me home to whittle out stretching-boards for lynx- and fox-skins. Some time during the evening I suddenly heard the sound of voices coming from down by the lake. Three men were approaching the cabin — Dale with a redskin on either side of him. The Indians, who were prowling about through the forest on a hunt for moose, had caught sight of the smoke from Dale's fire in the distance. It was thus they had encountered him. Their home was farther north on a lake they called No-ni-e Tue (Wolf Lake) and they had now been out several weeks. Neither of them presented a particularly trustworthy appearance, ragged and drenched as they were from head to foot. Aside from a rifle, a knife, and a handful of matches they owned nothing in the world. At night they must have flopped down just as they were, and slept in slush and muck. But they took their hardships and their empty bellies with cool indifference. They smiled and apparently were extremely well pleased with their existence. 


We set before them a huge kettle of fish, which they devoured before we could catch our breath. We then let them fill their pipes from our tobacco, after which they grunted contentedly and stretched out on our sleeping-bags, meanwhile smearing them up generally with their filthy moccasins. From our conversation with them we gathered that the caribou were still far in the interior of the Barren Lands and that we could not expect them in our vicinity until " small lakes all ice." 


The following morning we paddled the Indians across to the opposite shore of the lake, from whence they immediately resumed their interrupted moose-hunt. We spent the next few nights tense with anxiety, but it was soon apparent, thank God, that our guests had taken all their lice along with them. 


It is a tradition in the Far North that one's door must stand open to all who happen to pass and that food must be set before all guests. Hospitality is the law of the land, and the man who breaks this law in the end will suffer most. Sooner or later each man finds that he himself is in need of a hand-out, and it has happened on more than one occasion that the Indians have saved white men from almost certain death. There have been cases of starving and exhausted trappers becoming lost in the wilds, and other instances of white hunters, the powerless victims of scurvy, being discovered indoors in their cabins. In the latter case, the Indians would cure their patient with fresh caribou's blood or spruce-needle tea, and they have even been known to drive a sick man all the way in to the trading post. On the other hand, the cabin or tent of the white man has turned out to be the salvation of many a hungry, freezing redskin. . . .