Historical Events

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Superstition is more in evidence in the Prince Albert Sound people - who made "continual requests that I should next summer "think away" sickness from them and "think them" plenty game and good fortune.

May 16, 1911

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My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 18

Religion
Eskimo
Carnivore Diet

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Superstition. "Superstition” is perhaps more in evidence here than anywhere else. At the large village I could get no single individual to be photographed. An attempt to get a sample of “ auburn ” hair was futile and caused much (unfavorable) comment and suspicion. I tried first to trade some of my hair for itſa sample of the hair of a European looking Eskimo), then to buy it. There were continual requests that I should next summer " think away ” sickness from them and “think them ” plenty game and good fortune. There have been requests of this sort at all villages, but nowhere so serious, insistent and often repeated. Pamiungittok gave me a pair of breeches and an arrow to make me “ think good ” for his son who was sick - Agleroittok [is his name]. He asked repeatedly that I give him nothing in return, for he feared if I paid for the breeches I would not “ think good ” for his The blind man, Avranna, in Clouston Bay ( there is also a blind man at Prince Albert village - old man about 60) told us the reason of his blindness was that he had killed a large ugrug and when the people came wanting to cut it up he grudged to let them help themselves, therefore he became blind. I could not make out if the grudging' of itself caused the blindness, or if some “doctor” (shaman) was angered by it and made him blind — I believe the former. Natkusiak says it is no doubt true, for he knows of parallel cases in his own country. Usually there, however, it was this way : some one committed a bad deed (grudged to give something, stole, etc.) in secret. The “doctor” would then so ordain “ magically ” that the guilty person would in some way suffer then not only was the guilt punished but also people found out who was guilty (e.g. if an article had been stolen). 


At the first Nagyuktogmiut village in April some noise was heard outside our snowhouse. Our visitors of the time decided it was our son. (or my) turnnrak (familiar spirit] and forthwith started a chorus of requests and prayers to me (not to the turnnrak) to have the turnnrak provide plenty seals, good weather, good health, the safe birth of expected children, etc. As we were leaving there was a concerted request by all present that we intercede with the turnnrak for two women , Arnauyak and Anaktok ( both young, though only Anaktok recently married - other two or three years) that they might have children born to them . At last village (May 16) I staid over a day to see if a few lead and opium pills would do Agleroittok any good - he had had chronic diarrhoea since the summer 1908. They did seem to do good , but they were not satisfied with that — I must " pat” his stomach before going. Hitkoak made for me and bound on me a charm sash (usual type) so that I should remember and “ keep thinking that his wife should have safe delivery of a healthy child ” event about a month distant. 


Natkusiak says the angatkuk performances are very different here from (those among] his people he does not seem to think Victoria people are very powerful angatkuk (shamans] but has firm faith in all the claims of his own people's angatkuk. 


The woman's performance [described above) was very similar to that of Ovayuak [a Mackenzie River shaman] in January, 1907. The Sound people would not do cats' cradles for me because it is now in the long days — they play them only when sun is away — cf. Akulia kattagmiut as well as Ilavinirk's account of [cat's cradle customs in] Kotzebue Sound. 


Natkusiak tells : Some or all children are turnnrak [spirits] before birth . A few people can remember the things they knew when they were (prenatally) turnnrak. These are powerful angatkuk and can tell people many things they must not do (i.e. , [these shamans) impose taboos) . He has known one such man. He came as a turnnrak along the coast from the east and north, following every curve of the coast. Like other turnnrak of his class he was looking for a mother through whom to be born. He found her at Prince of Wales. The man when he grew up could tell many wonderful things that he knew before incarnation . Among other things, he told that the reason people don't see these turnnrak that are looking for mothers is that they iglaurut tautugnaittuagun (literally : travel through, or by, unseen regions ). Natkusiak does not know just how this is —he has merely heard the expression. Perhaps it means they travel underground , ” he says. He learnt in Prince Albert Sound (that there are there] some men who remember their prenatal existence.