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The brain of the codfish is another of their native medicines; and they have a great fondness for giving the raw liver of the seal to sick people.

January 1, 1912

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Among the Labrador Eskimo

Samuel King Hutton

Man The Fat Hunter

If an Eskimo has pain in any part of his body, that part is, to his way of thinking, broken. And similarly, if a man has a bad cough, his lungs are broken, and so on. The woman who came from the frozen snow-huts at Killinek to live in her brother's wooden house at Okak, and who found the warmth more than she could endure, used just the same expression when she said "My life is broken." This is the idea upon which the native doctors work: something is broken, and must be mended. In every village there are several of these doctors/ men and women who by some means or other have gained a reputation for unusual skill in dealing with sickness. Of medicines they have very few. They stew the twigs of the rosemary, and make a sort of tea: this is their panacea, and as it causes sweating perhaps it has its value. 


The brain of the codfish is another of their native medicines ; and they have a great fondness for giving the raw liver of the seal to sick people. Many a time have I found them munching the little red cubes into which they like it chopped. I found this little habit out because I used to wonder why seal's liver was so difficult to get from the people. It was the only part of the fishy flavoured seal that we could eat with any degree of enjoyment, and during the winter it was often the only form of fresh meat-food that we could obtain; but in spite of the good price that we offered only a very few livers came our way. Juliana, our first Eskimo hospital nurse, explained the mystery in a few words: "Tingo (liver) very good for sick people." 


The fact is that the people set great store by it as a health-giving food, and there are generally feeble and ailing ones wanting all the liver they can get : also, by the way, it is a great tit-bit, so that we con- sidered ourselves rather fortunate to get any at all. The native "doctor" sets very little store by his medicines; there is "mending" to be done, and accordingly he carries out his treatment by means of lengthy and mysterious manipulations. The Eskimos have a general idea of the constitution of the body; their constant work upon the seals gives them that ; they know whereabouts the various organs are, but of the marvellous way in which those organs work together in the bodily economy they have no idea. The wonders of physiology are beyond the grasp of their child minds ; they do not puzzle their heads over what they do not understand: "Taimaipok" (it is so), they say, and are content.