The hair both of males and females is black, glossy, and straight. The men usually wear it rather long, and allow it to hang about their heads in a loose and slovenly manner. A few of the younger men, and especially those who had been about the shores of the Welcome, had it cut straight upon the forehead, and two or three had a circular patch upon the crown of the head, where the hair was quite short and thin, somewhat after the manner of Capuchin friars. The women pride themselves extremely on the length and thickness of their hair; and it was not without reluctance on their part, and the same on that of their husbands, that they were induced to dispose of any of it. When inclined to be neat they separate their locks into two equal parts, one of which hangs on each side of their heads and in front of their shoulders. To stiffen and bind these they use a narrow strap of deerskin attached at one end to a round piece of bone, fourteen inches long, tapered to a point, and covered over with leather. This looks like a little whip, the handle of which is placed up and down the hair, and the strap wound round it in a number of spiral turns, making the tail thus equipped very much resemble one of those formerly worn by our seamen. The strap of this article of dress, which is altogether called a tglg, is so made from the deerskin as to show, when bound round the hair, alternate turns of white and dark fur, which give it a very neat and ornamental appearance. On ordinary occasions it is considered slovenly not to have the hair thus dressed, and the neatest of the women never visited the ships without it. Those who are less nice dispose their hair into a loose plait on each side, or have one tglg and one plait; and others again, wholly disregarding the business of the toilet, merely tucked their hair in under the breast of their jackets. Some of the womens hair was tolerably fine, but would not in this respect bear a comparison with that of an Englishwoman. In both sexes it is full of vermin, which they are in the constant habit of picking out and eating; a man and his wife will sit for an hour together performing for each other that friendly office. The women have a comb, which, however, seems more intended for ornament than use, as we seldom or never observed them comb their hair. When a womans husband is ill she wears her hair loose, and cuts it off as a sign of mourning if he diesa custom agreeing with that of the Greenlanders. It is probable also, from what has been before said, that some opprobrium is attached to the loss of a womans hair when no such occasion demands this sacrifice. The men wear the hair on the upper lip and chin, from an inch to an inch and a half in length, and some were distinguished by a little tuft between the chin and lower lip.
The dresses both of male and female are composed almost entirely of deer-skin, in which respect they differ from those of most Esquimaux before met with. In the form of the dress they vary very little from those so repeatedly described. The jacket, which is close, but not tight, all round, comes as low as the hips, and has sleeves reaching to the wrist. In that of the women, the tail or flap behind is very broad, and so long as almost to touch the ground; while a shorter and narrower one before reaches half-way down the thigh. The men have also a tail in the hind part of their jacket, but of smaller dimensions; but before it is generally straight or ornamented by a single scollop. The hood of the jacket, which forms the only covering for their head, is much the largest in that of the women, for the purpose of holding a child. The back of the jacket also bulges out in the middle to give the child a footing, and a strap or girdle below this, and secured round the waist by two large wooden buttons in front, prevents the infant from falling through, when, the hood being in use, it is necessary thus to deposit it. The sleeves of the womens jackets are made more square and loose about the shoulders than those of the men, for the convenience, as we understood, of more readily depositing a child in the hood; and they have a habit of slipping their arms out of them, and keeping them in contact with their bodies for the sake of warmth, just as we do with our fingers in our gloves in very cold weather.
In winter every individual, when in the open air, wears two jackets, of which the outer one (Cpp-tgg) has the hair outside, and the inner one (Attg) next the body. Immediately on entering the hut the men take off their outer jacket, beat the snow from it, and lay it by. The upper garment of the females, besides being cut according to a regular and uniform pattern, and sewed with exceeding neatness, which is the case with all the dresses of these people, has also the flaps ornamented in a very becoming manner by a neat border of deer-skin, so arranged as to display alternate breadths of white and dark fur. This is, moreover, usually beautified by a handsome fringe, consisting of innumerable long narrow threads of leather hanging down from it. This ornament is not uncommon also in the outer jackets of the men. When seal-hunting they fasten up the tails of their jackets with a button behind.
Their breeches, of which in winter they also wear two pairs, and similarly disposed as to the fur, reach below the knee, and fasten with a string drawn tight round the waist. Though these have little or no waist-band, and do not come very high, the depth of the jackets, which considerably overlap them, serves very effectually to complete the covering of the body.
Their legs and feet are so well clothed, that no degree of cold can well affect them. When a man goes on a sealing excursion he first puts on a pair of deer-skin boots (Allktg) with the hair inside and reaching to the knee, where they tie. Over these come a pair of shoes of the same material; next a pair of dressed seal-skin boots perfectly water-tight; and over all a corresponding pair of shoes, tying round the instep. These last are made just like the moccasin of a North American Indian, being neatly crimped at the toes, and having several serpentine pieces of hide sewn across the sole to prevent wearing. The water-tight boots and shoes are made of the skin of the small seal (neitiek), except the soles, which consist of the skin of the large seal (oguke); this last is also used for their fishing-lines. When the men are not prepared to encounter wet they wear an outer boot of deer-skin with the hair outside.
The inner boot of the women, unlike that of the men, is loose round the leg, coming as high as the knee-joint behind, and in front carried up, by a long pointed flap, nearly to the waist, and there fastened to the breeches. The upper boot, with the hair as usual outside, corresponds with the other in shape, except that it is much more full, especially on the outer side, where it bulges out so preposterously as to give the women the most awkward, bow-legged appearance imaginable. This superfluity of boot has probably originated in the custom, still common among the native women of Labrador, of carrying their children in them. We were told that these women sometimes put their children there to sleep; but the custom must be rare among them, as we never saw it practised. These boots, however, form their principal pockets, and pretty capacious ones they are. Here, also, as in the jackets, considerable taste is displayed in the selection of different parts of the deer-skin, alternate strips of dark and white being placed up and down the sides and front by way of ornament. The women also wear a moccasin (Itteegg) over all in the winter time.
One or two persons used to wear a sort of ruff round the neck, composed of the longest white hair of the deerskin, hanging down over the bosom in a manner very becoming to young people. It seemed to afford so little additional warmth to persons already well clothed, that I am inclined rather to attribute their wearing it to some superstitious notion. The children between two and eight or nine years of age had a pair of breeches and boots united in one, with braces over their shoulders to keep them up. These, with a jacket like the others and a pair of deer-skin mittens, with which each individual is furnished, constitute the whole of their dress. Childrens clothes are often made of the skins of very young fawns and of the marmot, as being softer than those of the deer.
The Esquimaux, when thus equipped, may at all times bid defiance to the rigour of this inhospitable climate; and nothing can exceed the comfortable appearance which they exhibit even in the most inclement weather. When seen at a little distance the white rim of their hoods, whitened still more by the breath collecting and freezing upon it, and contrasted with the dark faces which they encircle, render them very grotesque objects; but while the skin of their dresses continues in good condition they always look clean and wholesome.
To judge by the eagerness with which the women received our beads, especially small white ones, as well as any other article of that kind, we might suppose them very fond of personal ornament. Yet of all that they obtained from us in this way at Winter Island, scarcely anything ever made its appearance again during our stay there, except a ring or two on the finger, and some bracelets of beads round the wrist: the latter of these was probably considered as a charm of some kind or other. We found among them, at the time of our first intercourse, a number of small black and white glass beads, disposed alternately on a string of sinew, and worn in this manner. They would also sometimes hang a small bunch of these, or a button or two, in front of their jackets and hair; and many of them, in the course of the second winter, covered the whole front of their jackets with the beads they received from us.
The most common ornament of this kind, exclusively their own, consists in strings of teeth, sometimes many hundred in number, which are either attached to the lower part of the jacket, like the fringe before described, or fastened as a belt round the waist. Most of these teeth are of the fox and wolf, but some also belong to the musk-ox (mngmk), of which animal, though it is never seen at Winter Island, we procured from the Esquimaux several of the grinders and a quantity of the hair and skin. The bones of the kbl-rioo, supposed to be the wolverine, constitute another of their ornaments; and it is more than probable that all these possess some imaginary qualities, as specific charms for various purposes. The most extraordinary amulet, if it be one, of this kind was a row of foxes noses attached to the fore-part of a womans jacket like a tier of black buttons. I purchased from Iligliuk a semicircular ornament of brass, serrated at the upper edge and brightly polished, which she wore over her hair in front and which was very becoming. The handsomest thing of this kind, however, was understood to be worn on the head by men, though we did not learn on what occasions. It consisted of a band two inches in breadth, composed of several strips of skin sewn together, alternately black and yellow; near the upper edge some hair was artfully interwoven, forming with the skin a very pretty chequer-work: along the lower edge were suspended more than a hundred small teeth, principally of the deer, neatly fastened by small double tags of sinew, and forming a very appropriate fringe.
Among their personal ornaments must also be reckoned that mode of marking the body called tattooing, which, of the customs not essential to the comfort or happiness of mankind, is perhaps the most extensively practised throughout the world. Among those people it seems to be an ornament of indispensable importance to the women, not one of them being without it. The operation is performed about the age of ten, or sometimes earlier, and has nothing to do with marriage, except that, being considered in the light of a personal charm, it may serve to recommend them as wives. The parts of the body thus marked are their faces, arms, hands, thighs, and in some few women the breasts, but never the feet as in Greenland. The operation, which by way of curiosity most of our gentlemen had practised on their arms, is very expeditiously managed by passing a needle and thread (the latter covered with lamp-black and oil) under the epidermis, according to a pattern previously marked out upon the skin. Several stitches being thus taken at once, the thumb is pressed upon the part while the thread is drawn through, by which means the colouring matter is retained, and a permanent dye of a blue tinge imparted to the skin. A woman expert at this business will perform it very quickly and with great regularity, but seldom without drawing blood in many places, and occasioning some inflammation. Where so large a portion of the surface of the body is to be covered, it must become a painful as well as tedious process, especially as, for want of needles, they often use a strip of whalebone as a substitute. For those parts where a needle cannot conveniently be passed under the skin they use the method by puncture, which is common in other countries, and by which our seamen frequently mark their hands and arms. Several of the men were marked on the back part of their hands; and with them we understood it to be considered as a souvenir of some distant or deceased person who had performed it.
In their winter habitations, I have before mentioned that the only materials employed are snow and ice, the latter being made use of for the windows alone. The work is commenced by cutting from a drift of hard and compact snow a number of oblong slabs, six or seven inches thick and about two feet in length, and laying them edgeways on a level spot, also covered with snow, in a circular form, and of a diameter from eight to fifteen feet, proportioned to the number of occupants the hut is to contain. Upon this as a foundation is laid a second tier of the same kind, but with the pieces inclining a little inwards, and made to fit closely to the lower slabs and to each other, by running a knife adroitly along the under part and sides. The top of this tier is now prepared for the reception of a third by squaring it off smoothly with a knife, all which is dexterously performed by one man standing within the circle and receiving the blocks of snow from those employed in cutting them without. When the wall has attained a height of four or five feet, it leans so much inward as to appear as if about to tumble every moment; but the workmen still fearlessly lay their blocks of snow upon it, until it is too high any longer to furnish the materials to the builder in this manner. Of this he gives notice by cutting a hole close to the ground in that part where the door is intended to be, which is near the south side, and through this the snow is now passed. Thus they continue till they have brought the sides nearly to meet in a perfect and well-constructed dome, sometimes nine or ten feet high in the centre; and this they take considerable care in finishing, by fitting the last block or keystone very nicely in the centre, dropping it into its place from the outside, though it is still done by the man within. The people outside are in the meantime occupied in throwing up snow with the pollry, or snow-shovel, and in stuffing in little wedges of snow where holes have been accidentally left.
The builder next proceeds to let himself out by enlarging the proposed doorway into the form of a Gothic arch three feet high, and two feet and a half wide at the bottom, communicating with which they construct two passages, each from ten to twelve feet long and from four to five feet in height, the lowest being that next the hut. The roofs of these passages are sometimes arched, but more generally made flat by slabs laid on horizontally. In first digging the snow for building the hut, they take it principally from the part where the passages are to be made, which purposely brings the floor of the latter considerably lower than that of the hut, but in no part do they dig till the bare ground appears.
The work just described completes the walls of a hut, if a single apartment only be required; but if, on account of relationship, or from any other cause, several families are to reside under one roof, the passages are made common to all, and the first apartment (in that case made smaller) forms a kind of ante-chamber, from which you go through an arched doorway, five feet high, into the inhabited apartments. When there are three of these, which is generally the case, the whole building, with its adjacent passages, forms a tolerably regular cross.
For the admission of light into the huts a round hole is cut on one side of the roof of each apartment, and a circular plate of ice, three or four inches thick and two feet in diameter, let into it. The light is soft and pleasant, like that transmitted through ground glass, and is quite sufficient for every purpose. When after some time these edifices become surrounded by drift, it is only by the windows, as I have before remarked, that they could be recognised as human habitations. It may, perhaps, then be imagined how singular is their external appearance at night, when they discover themselves only by a circular disc of light transmitted through the windows from the lamps within.
The next thing to be done is to raise a bank of snow, two and a half feet high, all round the interior of each apartment, except on the side next the door. This bank, which is neatly squared off, forms their beds and fireplace, the former occupying the sides, and the latter the end opposite the door. The passage left open up to the fireplace is between three and four feet wide. The beds are arranged by first covering the snow with a quantity of small stones, over which are laid their paddles, tent-poles, and some blades of whalebone; above these they place a number of little pieces of network, made of thin slips of whalebone, and, lastly, a quantity of twigs of birch and of the andromeda tetragona. Their deer-skins, which are very numerous, can now be spread without risk of their touching the snow; and such a bed is capable of affording not merely comfort but luxurious repose, in spite of the rigour of the climate. The skins thus used as blankets are made of a large size, and bordered, like some of the jackets, with a fringe of long narrow slips of leather, in which state a blanket is called kipik.
The fire belonging to each family consists of a single lamp, or shallow vessel of lapis ollaris, its form being the lesser segment of a circle. The wick, composed of dry moss rubbed between the hands till it is quite inflammable, is disposed along the edge of the lamp on the straight side, and a greater or smaller quantity lighted, according to the heat required or the fuel that can be afforded. When the whole length of this, which is sometimes above eighteen inches, is kindled, it affords a most brilliant and beautiful light, without any perceptible smoke or any offensive smell. The lamp is made to supply itself with oil, by suspending a long thin slice of whale, seal, or sea-horse blubber near the flame, the warmth of which causes the oil to drip into the vessel until the whole is extracted. Immediately over the lamp is fixed a rude and rickety framework of wood, from which their pots are suspended, and serving also to sustain a large hoop of bone, having a net stretched tight within it. This contrivance, called Inntt, is intended for the reception of any wet things, and is usually loaded with boots, shoes, and mittens.
The fireplace, just described as situated at the upper end of the apartment, has always two lamps facing different ways, one for each family occupying the corresponding bed-place. There is frequently also a smaller and less-pretending establishment on the same modellamp, pot, net, and allin one of the corners next the door; for one apartment sometimes contains three families, which are always closely related, and no married woman, or even a widow without children, is without her separate fireplace.
With all the lamps lighted and the hut full of people and dogs, a thermometer placed on the net over the fire indicated a temperature of 38°; when removed two or three feet from this situation it fell to 31°, and placed close to the wall stood at 23°, the temperature of the open air at the time being 25° below zero. A greater degree of warmth than this produces extreme inconvenience by the dropping from the roofs. This they endeavour to obviate by applying a little piece of snow to the place from which a drop proceeds, and this adhering is for a short time an effectual remedy; but for several weeks in the spring, when the weather is too warm for these edifices, and still too cold for tents, they suffer much on this account.
The most important perhaps of the domestic utensils, next to the lamp already described, are the tksks or stone pots for cooking. These are hollowed out of solid lapis ollaris, of an oblong form, wider at the top than at the bottom, all made in similar proportion, though of various sizes, corresponding with the dimensions of the lamp which burns under it. The pot is suspended by a line of sinew at each end to the framework over the fire, and thus becomes so black on every side that the original colour of the stone is in no part discernible. Many of them were cracked quite across in several places, and mended by sewing with sinew or rivets of copper, iron, or lead, so as, with the assistance of a lashing and a due proportion of dirt, to render them quite water-tight. I may here remark that as these people distinguish the Wager River by the name of Otkskslik, we were at first led to conjecture that they procured their pots, or the material for making them, in that neighbourhood; this, however, they assured us was not the case, the whole of them coming from Akkoolee, where the stone is found in very high situations. One of the women at Winter Island, who came from that country, said that her parents were much employed in making these pots, chiefly it seems as articles of barter. The asbestos, which they use in the shape of a roundish pointed stick called tatko for trimming the lamps, is met with about Repulse Bay, and generally, as they said, on low land.
Besides the ootkooseeks, they have circular and oval vessels of whalebone of various sizes, which, as well as their ivory knives made out of a walruss tusk, are precisely similar to those described on the western coast of Baffins Bay in 1820. They have also a number of smaller vessels of skin sewed neatly together, and a large basket of the same material, resembling a common sieve in shape, but with the bottom close and tight, is to be seen in every apartment. Under every lamp stands a sort of save-all, consisting of a small skin basket for catching the oil that falls over. Almost every family was in possession of a wooden tray very much resembling those used to carry butchers meat in England, and of nearly the same dimensions, which we understood them to have procured by way of Noowook. They had a number of the bowls or cups already once or twice alluded to as being made out of the thick root of the horn of the musk-ox. Of the smaller part of the same horn they also form a convenient drinking-cup, sometimes turning it up artificially about one-third from the point, so as to be almost parallel to the other part, and cutting it full of small notches as a convenience in grasping it. These, or any other vessels for drinking, they call Immchiuk.
Besides the ivory knives, the men were well supplied with a much more serviceable kind, made of iron, and called panna. The form of this knife is very peculiar, being seven inches long, two and a quarter broad, quite straight and flat, pointed at the end, and ground equally sharp at both edges; this is firmly secured into a handle of bone or wood, about a foot long, by two or three iron rivets, and has all the appearance of a most destructive spear-head, but is nevertheless put to no other purpose than that of a very useful knife, which the men are scarcely ever without, especially on their sealing excursions. For these, and several knives of European form, they are probably indebted to an indirect communication with our factories in Hudsons Bay. The same may be observed of the best of their womens knives (ooloo), on one of which, of a larger size than usual, were the names of Wild and Sorby. When of their own manufacture, the only iron part was a little narrow slip let into the bone and secured by rivets. It is curious to observe in this, and in numerous other instances, how exactly, amidst all the diversity of time and place, these people have preserved unaltered their manners and habits as mentioned by Crantz. That which an absurd dread of innovation does in China, the want of intercourse with other nations has effected among the Esquimaux.
Of the horn of the musk-ox they make also very good spoons much like ours in shape; and I must not omit to mention their marrow spoons (pattkniuk, from pttk, marrow), made out of long, narrow, hollowed pieces of bone, of which every housewife has a bunch of half a dozen or more tied together, and generally attached to her needle-case.
For the purpose of obtaining fire the Esquimaux use two lumps of common iron pyrites, from which sparks are struck into a little leathern case containing moss well dried and rubbed between the hands. If this tinder does not readily catch, a small quantity of the white floss of the seed of the ground willow is laid above the moss. As soon as a spark has caught, it is gently blown till the fire has spread an inch around, when, the pointed end of a piece of oiled wick being applied, it soon bursts into a flame, the whole process having occupied perhaps two or three minutes.
Among the articles in their possession, which must have been obtained by communication along shore with Hudsons Bay, were two large copper kettles, several open knives with crooked wooden handles, and many fragments of copper, iron, and old files. On a small European axe was observed the name of Foster.
In enumerating the articles of their food, we might perhaps give a list of every animal inhabiting these regions, as they certainly will at times eat any one of them. Their principal dependence, however, is on the reindeer (tkto), musk-ox (mngmk)(in the parts where this animal is found), whale (ggwk), walrus (i—k), the large and small seal (gke and nitiek), and two sorts of salmon, the we-trke (salmo alpinus?) and ichlwke. The latter is taken by hooks in freshwater lakes, and the former by spearing in the shoal water of certain inlets of the sea. Of all these animals they can only procure in the winter the walrus and small seal upon this part of the coast; and these at times, as we have seen, in scarcely sufficient quantity for their subsistence.
They certainly in general prefer eating their meat cooked, and while they have fuel they usually boil it; but this is a luxury and not a necessary to them. Oily as the nature of their principal food is, yet they commonly take an equal proportion of lean to their fat, and unless very hungry do not eat it otherwise. Oil they seldom or never use in any way as a part of their general diet; and even our butter, of which they were fond, they would not eat without a due quantity of bread. They do not like salt meat as well as fresh, and never use salt themselves; but ships pork, or even a red herring, did not come amiss to them. Of pea-soup they would eat as much as the sailors could afford to give them; and that word was the only one, with the exception of our names, which many of them ever learned in English. Among their own luxuries must be mentioned a rich soup called ky, made of blood, gravy, and water, and eaten quite hot. In obtaining the names of several plants, we learned that they sometimes eat the leaves of sorrel (knglek), and those of the ground willow; as also the red berries (pana-rootik) of the vaccinium uliginosum, and the root of the potentilla pulchella; but these cannot be said to form a part of their regular diet; scurvy grass they never eat.
Their only drink is water; and of this, when they can procure it, they swallow an inconceivable quantity; so that one of the principal occupations of the women during the winter is the thawing of snow in the ootkooseks for this purpose. They cut it into thin slices, and are careful to have it clean, on which account they will bring it from a distance of fifty yards from the huts. They have an extreme dislike to drinking water much above the temperature of 32°. In eating their meals the mistress of the family, having previously cooked the meat, takes a large lump out of the pot with her fingers, and hands it to her husband, who placing a part of it between his teeth cuts it off with a large knife in that position, and then passes the knife and meat together to his next neighbour. In cutting off a mouthful of meat the knife passes so close to their lips, that nothing but constant habit could ensure them from the danger of the most terrible gashes; and it would make an English mother shudder to see the manner in which children, five or six years old, are at all times freely trusted with a knife to be used in this way.
The length of one of the best of seven canoes belonging to these Esquimaux was twenty-five feet, including a narrow-pointed projection, three feet long at each end, which turns a little upward from the horizontal. The extreme breadth, which is just before the circular hole, was twenty-one inches, and the depth ten inches and a half. The plane of the upper surface of the canoe, except in the two extreme projections, bends downwards a little from the centre towards the head and stern, giving it the appearance of what is in ships called broken-backed. The gunwales are of fir, in some instances of one piece, three or four inches broad in the centre and tapering gradually away towards the ends. The timbers, as well as the fore-and-aft connecting pieces, are of the same material, the former being an inch square, and sometimes so close together as to require between forty and fifty of them in one canoe: which when thus in frame is one of the prettiest things of the kind that can be imagined. The skin with which the canoe is covered is exclusively that of the neitiek, prepared by scraping off the hair and fat with an ooloo, and stretching it tight on a frame over the fire; after which and a good deal of chewing, it is sewn on by the women with admirable neatness and strength. Their paddles have a blade at each end, the whole length being nine feet and a half; the blades are covered with a narrow plate of bone round the ends to secure them from splitting: they are always made of fir, and generally of several pieces scarfed and woolded together.
In summer they rest their canoes upon two small stones raised four feet from the ground; and in winter, on a similar structure of snow; in one case to allow them to dry freely, and in the other to prevent the snow-drift from covering, and the dogs from eating them. The difficulty of procuring a canoe may be concluded from the circumstance of there being at Winter Island twenty men able to manage one, and only seven canoes among them. Of these indeed only three or four were in good repair, the rest being wholly or in part stripped of the skin, of which a good deal was occasionally cut off during the winter, to make boots, shoes, and mittens for our people. We found no oomiak, or womens boat, among them, and understood that they were not in the habit of using them, which may in part be accounted for by their passing so much of the summer in the interior; they knew very well, however, what they were, and made some clumsy models of them for our people.
In the weapons used for killing their game there is considerable variety, according to the animal of which they are in pursuit. The most simple of these is the nk, which they use only for killing the small seal. It consists of a light staff of wood, four feet in length, having at one end the point of a narwhals horn, from ten to eighteen inches long, firmly secured by rivets and wooldings; at the other end is a smaller and less effective point of the same kind. To prevent losing the ivory part in case of the wood breaking, a stout thong runs along the whole length of the wood, each end passing through a hole in the ivory, and the bight secured in several places to the staff. In this weapon, as far as it has yet been described, there is little art or ingenuity displayed; but a considerable degree of both in an appendage called sitk, consisting of a piece of bone three inches long, and having a point of iron at one end, and at the other end a small hole or socket to receive the point of the oonak. Through the middle of this instrument is secured the llek, or line of thong, of which every man has, when sealing, a couple of coils, each from four to six fathoms long, hanging at his back. These are made of the skin of the oguke as in Greenland, and are admirably adapted to the purpose, both on account of their strength, and the property which they possess of preserving their pliability even in the most intense frost.
When a seal is seen, the siatko is taken from a little leathern case, in which, when out of use, it is carefully enclosed, and attached by its socket to the point of the spear; in this situation it is retained by bringing the allek tight down and fastening it round the middle of the staff by what seamen call a slippery hitch, which may instantly be disengaged by pulling on the other end of the line. As soon as the spear has been thrown, and the animal struck, the siatko is thus purposely separated; and being slung by the middle, now performs very effectually the important office of a barb, by turning at right angles to the direction in which it has entered the orifice. This device is in its principle superior even to our barb; for the instant any strain is put upon the line it acts like a toggle, opposing its length to a wound only as wide as its own breadth.
The klak, or aklg, used for the large seal, has a blown bladder attached to the staff, for the purpose of impeding the animal in the water. The weapon with two long parallel prongs of bone or iron, obtained from the natives of the Savage Islands, these people also called akleak, and said it was for killing seals.
The third and largest weapon is that called katteelik, with which the walrus and whale are attacked. The staff of this is not longer but much stouter than that of the others, especially towards the middle, where there is a small shoulder of ivory securely lashed to it for the thumb to rest against, and thus to give additional force in throwing or thrusting the spear. The ivory point of this weapon is made to fit into a socket at the end of the staff, where it is secured by double thongs, in such a manner as steadily to retain its position when a strain is put upon it in the direction of its length, but immediately disengaging itself with a sort of spring, when any lateral strain endangers its breaking. The siatko is always used with this spear; and to the end of the allek, when the animal pursued is in open water, they attach a whole seal-skin (hw-wt-t), inflated like a bladder, for the purpose of tiring it out in its progress through the water.
They have a spear called ppoo for killing deer in the water. They described it as having a light staff and a small head of iron, but they had none of these so fitted in the winter. The ngee, or dart for birds, has, besides its two ivory prongs at the end of the staff, three divergent ones in the middle of it, with several small double barbs upon them turning inwards; they differ from the nuguit of Greenland, and that of the Savage Islands, in having these prongs always of unequal lengths. To give additional velocity to the bird-dart, they use a throwing-stick (noke-shak) which is probably the same as the hand-board figured by Crantz. It consists of a flat board about eighteen inches in length, having a groove to receive the staff, two others and a hole for the fingers and thumb, and a small spike fitted for a hole in the end of the staff. This instrument is used for the bird-dart only. The spear for salmon or other fish, called kke-wi, consists of a wooden staff with a spike of bone or ivory, three inches long, secured at one end. On each side of the spike is a curved prong, much like that of a pitchfork, but made of flexible horn, which gives them a spring, and having a barb on the inner part of the point turning downwards. Their fish-hooks (kaklikia) consist only of a nail crooked and pointed at one end, the other being let into a piece of ivory to which the line is attached. A piece of deers horn or curved bone, only a foot long, is used as a rod, and completes this very rude part of their fishing-gear.
Of their mode of killing seals in the winter I have already spoken in the course of the foregoing narrative, as far as we were enabled to make ourselves acquainted with it. In their summer exploits on the water, the killing of the whale is the most arduous undertaking which they have to perform; and one cannot sufficiently admire the courage and activity which, with gear apparently so inadequate, it must require to accomplish this business. Okotook, who was at the killing of two whales in the course of a single summer, and who described the whole of it quite con amore, mentioned the names of thirteen men who, each in his canoe, had assisted on one of these occasions. When a fish is seen lying on the water, they cautiously paddle up astern of him, till a single canoe, preceding the rest, comes close to him on one quarter, so as to enable the man to drive the katteelik into the animal with all the force of both arms. This having the siatko, a long allek, and the inflated seal-skin attached to it, the whale immediately dives, taking the whole apparatus with him except the katteelik which, being disengaged in the manner before described, floats to the surface and is picked up by its owner. The animal re-appearing after some time, all the canoes again paddle towards him, some warning being given by the seal-skin buoy floating on the surface. Each man being furnished like the first, they repeat the blows as often as they find opportunity, till perhaps every line has been thus employed. After pursuing him in this manner, sometimes for half a day, he is at length so wearied by the resistance of the buoys, and exhausted by loss of blood, as to be obliged to rise more and more often to the surface, when, by frequent wounds with their spears, they succeed in killing him, and tow their prize in triumph to the shore. It is probable that with the whale, as with the smaller sea-animals, some privilege or perquisite is given to the first striker; and, like our own fishermen, they take a pride in having it known that their spear has been the first to inflict a wound. They meet with the most whales on the coast of Einwllik.
In attacking the walrus in the water they use the same gear, but with much more caution than with the whale, always throwing the katteelik from some distance, lest the animal should attack the canoe and demolish it with his tusks. The walrus is in fact the only animal with which they use any caution of this kind. They like the flesh better than that of the seal; but venison is preferred by them to either of these, and indeed to any other kind of meat.
At Winter Island they carefully preserved the heads of all the animals killed during the winter, except two or three of the walrus, which we obtained with great difficulty. There is probably some superstition attached to this, but they told us that they were to be thrown into the sea in the summer, which a Greenlander studiously avoids doing; and, indeed, at Igloolik, they had no objection to part with them before the summer arrived. As the blood of the animals which they kill is all used as food of the most luxurious kind, they are careful to avoid losing any portion of it; for this purpose they carry with them on their excursions a little instrument of ivory called topt, in form and size exactly resembling a twenty-penny nail, with which they stop up the orifice made by the spear, by thrusting it through the skin by the sides of the wound, and securing it with a twist. I must here also mention a simple little instrument called keipkttuk, being a slender rod of bone nicely rounded, and having a point at one end and a knob or else a laniard at the other. The use of this is to thrust through the ice where they have reason to believe a seal is at work underneath. This little instrument is sometimes made as delicate as a fine wire, that the seal may not see it; and a part still remaining above the surface informs the fishermen by its motion whether the animal is employed in making his hole: if not, it remains undisturbed, and the attempt is given up in that place.
One of the best of their bows was made of a single piece of fir, four feet eight inches in length, flat on the inner side and rounded on the outer, being five inches in girth about the middle, where, however, it is strengthened on the concave side, when strung, by a piece of bone ten inches long, firmly secured by tree-nails of the same material. At each end of the bow is a knob of bone, or sometimes of wood covered with leather, with a deep notch for the reception of the string. The only wood which they can procure not possessing sufficient elasticity combined with strength, they ingeniously remedy the defect by securing to the back of the bow, and to the knobs at each end, a quantity of small lines, each composed of a plait or sinnet of three sinews. The number of lines thus reaching from end to end is generally about thirty; but besides these, several others are fastened with hitches round the bow, in pairs, commencing eight inches from one end, and again united at the same distance from the other, making the whole number of strings, in the middle of the bow sometimes amount to sixty. These being put on with the bow somewhat bent the contrary way, produce a spring so strong as to require considerable force as well as knack in stringing it and giving the requisite velocity to the arrow. The bow is completed by a woolding round the middle and a wedge or two, here and there, driven in to tighten it. A bow in one piece is, however, very rare; they generally consist of from two to five pieces of bone of unequal lengths, secured together by rivets and tree-nails.
The arrows vary in length from twenty to thirty inches, according to the materials that can be commanded. About two-thirds of the whole length is of fir rounded, and the rest of bone let by a socket into the wood, and having a head of thin iron, or more commonly of slate, secured into a slit by two tree-nails. Towards the opposite end of the arrow are two feathers, generally of the spotted oval, not very neatly lashed on. The bow-string consists of from twelve to eighteen small lines of three-sinew sinnet, having a loose twist, and with a separate becket of the same size for going over the knobs at the end of the bow.
We tried their skill in archery by getting them to shoot at a mark for a prize, though with bows in extremely bad order, on account of the frost, and their hands very cold. The mark was two of their spears stuck upright in the snow, their breadth being three inches and a half. At twenty yards they struck this every time; at thirty, sent the arrows always within an inch or two of it; and at forty or fifty yards, I should think, would generally hit a fawn if the animal stood still. These weapons are perhaps sufficient to inflict a mortal wound at something more than that distance, for which, however, a strong arm would be required. The animals which they kill with the bow and arrow for their subsistence are principally the musk-ox and deer, and less frequently the bear, wolf, fox, hare, and some of the smaller animals.
It is a curious fact that the musk-ox is very rarely found to extend his migrations to the eastward of a line passing through Repulse Bay, or about the meridian of 86° west, while in a northern direction we know that he travels as far as the seventy-sixth degree of latitude. In Greenland this animal is known only by vague and exaggerated report; on the western coast of Baffins Bay it has certainly been seen, though very rarely, by the present inhabitants; and the eldest person belonging to the Winter Island tribe had never seen one to the eastward of Eiwillik, where, as well as at Akkle, they are said to be numerous on the banks of fresh-water lakes and streams. The few men who had been present at the killing of one of these creatures seemed to pride themselves very much upon it. Toolooak, who was about seventeen years of age, had never seen either the musk-ox or the kble-rioo, a proof that the latter also is not common in this corner of America.
The reindeer are killed by the Esquimaux in great abundance in the summer season, partly by driving them from islands or narrow necks of land into the sea, and then spearing them from their canoes; and partly by shooting them from behind heaps of stones raised for the purpose of watching them and imitating their peculiar bellow or grunt. Among the various artifices which they employ for this purpose, one of the most ingenious consists in two men walking directly from the deer they wish to kill, when the animal almost always follows them. As soon as they arrive at a large stone, one of the men hides behind it with his bow, while the other, continuing to walk on, soon leads the deer within range of his companions arrows. They are also very careful to keep to leeward of the deer, and will scarcely go out after them at all when the weather is calm. For several weeks in the course of the summer some of these people almost entirely give up their fishery on the coast, retiring to the banks of lakes several miles in the interior, which they represent as large and deep and abounding with salmon, while the pasture near them affords good feeding to numerous herds of deer.
The distance to which these people extend their inland migrations, and the extent of coast of which they possess a personal knowledge, are really very considerable. Of these we could at the time of our first intercourse form no correct judgment, from our uncertainty as to the length of what they call a seenik (sleep), or one days journey, by which alone they could describe to us, with the help of their imperfect arithmetic, the distance from one place to another. But our subsequent knowledge of the coast has cleared up much of this difficulty, affording the means of applying to their hydrographical sketches a tolerably accurate scale for those parts which we have not hitherto visited. A great number of these people, who were born at Amitioke and Igloolik, had been to Noowook, or nearly as far south as Chesterfield Inlet, which is about the ne plus ultra of their united knowledge in a southerly direction. Not one of them had been by water round to Akkoolee, but several by land; in which mode of travelling they only consider that country from three to five days journey from Repulse Bay. Okotook and a few others of the Winter Island tribe had extended their peregrinations a considerable distance to the northward, over the large insular piece of land to which we have applied the name of Cockburn Island; which they described as high land and the resort of numerous reindeer. Here Okotook informed us he had seen icebergs, which these people call by a name (pcclyk) having in its pronunciation some affinity to that used in Greenland. By the information afterwards obtained when nearer the spot, we had reason to suppose this land must reach beyond the seventy-second degree of latitude in a northerly direction; so that these people possess a personal knowledge of the continent of America and its adjacent islands, from that parallel to Chesterfield Inlet in 63¾°, being a distance of more than five hundred miles reckoned in a direct line, besides the numerous turnings and windings of the coast along which they are accustomed to travel. Ewerat and some others had been a considerable distance up the Wager River; but no record had been preserved among them of Captain Middletons visit to that inlet about the middle of the last century.
Of the continental shore to the westward of Akkoolee, the Esquimaux invariably disclaimed the slightest personal knowledge; for no land can be seen in that direction from the hills. They entertain, however, a confused idea that neither Esquimaux nor Indians could there subsist, for want of food. Of the Indians they know enough by tradition to hold them in considerable dread, on account of their cruel and ferocious manners. When, on one occasion, we related the circumstances of the inhuman massacre described by Hearne, they crowded round us in the hut, listening with mute and almost breathless attention; and the mothers drew their children closer to them, as if to guard them from the dreadful catastrophe. It is worthy of notice that they call the Indians by a name (Ert-ki-le), which appears evidently the same as that applied by the Greenlanders to the man-eaters supposed to inhabit the eastern coast of their country, and to whom terror has assigned a face like that of a dog.
The Esquimaux take some animals in traps, and by a very ingenious contrivance of this kind they caught two wolves at Winter Island. It consists of a small house built of ice, at one end of which a door, made of the same plentiful material, is fitted to slide up and down in a groove; to the upper part of this a line is attached, and, passing over the roof, is let down into the trap at the inner end, and there held by slipping an eye in the end of it over a peg of ice left for the purpose. Over the peg, however, is previously placed a loose grummet, to which the bait is fastened, and a false roof placed over all to hide the line. The moment the animal drags at the bait the grummet slips off the peg, bringing with it the line that held up the door, and this falling down closes the trap and secures him.
A trap for birds is formed by building a house of snow just large enough to contain one person, who closes himself up in it. On the top is left a small aperture, through which the man thrusts one of his hands to secure the bird the moment he alights to take away a bait of meat laid beside it. It is principally gulls that are taken thus; and the boys sometimes amuse themselves in this manner. A trap in which they catch foxes has been mentioned in another place.
The sledges belonging to these Esquimaux were in general large and heavily constructed, being more adapted to the carriage of considerable burdens than to very quick travelling. They varied in size, being from six and a half to nine feet in length, and from eighteen inches to two feet in breadth. Some of those at Igloolik were of larger dimensions, one being eleven feet in length, and weighing two hundred and sixty-eight pounds, and two or three others above two hundred pounds. The runners are sometimes made of the right and left jaw-bones of a whale; but more commonly of several pieces of wood or bone scarfed and lashed together, the interstices being filled, to make all smooth and firm, with moss stuffed in tight, and then cemented by throwing water to freeze upon it. The lower part of the runner is shod with a plate of harder bone, coated with fresh-water ice to make it run smoothly and to avoid wear and tear, both which purposes are thus completely answered. This coating is performed with a mixture of snow and fresh water about half an inch thick, rubbed over it till it is quite smooth and hard upon the surface, and this is usually done a few minutes before setting out on a journey. When the ice is only in part worn off, it is renewed by taking some water into the mouth, and spirting it over the former coating. We noticed a sledge which was extremely curious, on account of one of the runners and a part of the other being constructed without the assistance of wood, iron, or bone of any kind. For this purpose a number of seal-skins being rolled up and disposed into the requisite shape, an outer coat of the same kind was sewed tightly round them; this formed the upper half of the runner, the lower part of which consisted entirely of moss moulded while wet into the proper form, and being left to freeze, adhering firmly together and to the skins. The usual shoeing of smooth ice beneath completed the runner, which for more than six months out of twelve, in this climate, was nearly as hard as any wood; and for winter use no way inferior to those constructed of more durable materials. The crosspieces which form the bottom of the sledge are made of bone, wood, or anything they can muster. Over these is generally laid a seal-skin as a flooring, and in the summertime a pair of deers horns are attached to the sledge as a back, which in the winter are removed to enable them when stopping to turn the sledge up, so as to prevent the dogs running away with it. The whole is secured by lashings of thong, giving it a degree of strength combined with flexibility which perhaps no other mode of fastening could effect.
The dogs of the Esquimaux, of which these people possessed above a hundred, have been so often described that there may seem little left to add respecting their external appearance, habits, and use. Our visits to Igloolik having, however, made us acquainted with some not hitherto described, I shall here offer a further account of these invaluable animals. In the form of their bodies, their short pricked ears, thick furry coat, and bushy tail, they so nearly resemble the wolf of these regions that, when of a light or brindled colour, they may easily at a little distance be mistaken for that animal. To an eye accustomed to both, however, a difference is perceptible in the wolfs always keeping his head down and his tail between his legs in running, whereas the dogs almost always carry their tails handsomely curled over the back. A difference less distinguishable, when the animals are apart, is the superior size and more muscular make of the wild animal, especially about the breast and legs. The wolf is also, in general, full two inches taller than any Esquimaux dog we have seen; but those met with in 1818, in the latitude of 76°, appear to come nearest to it in that respect. The tallest dog at Igloolik stood two feet one inch from the ground, measured at the withers; the average height was about two inches less than this.
The colour of the dogs varies from a white, through brindled, to black-and-white, or almost entirely black. Some are also of a reddish or ferruginous colour, and others have a brownish-red tinge on their legs, the rest of their bodies being of a darker colour, and these last were observed to be generally the best dogs. Their hair in the winter is from three to four inches long; but besides this, Nature furnishes them during this rigorous season with a thick under-coating of close soft wool, which they begin to cast in the spring. While thus provided, they are able to withstand the most inclement weather without suffering from the cold; and at whatever temperature the atmosphere may be, they require nothing but a shelter from the wind to make them comfortable, and even this they do not always obtain. They are also wonderfully enabled to endure the cold even on those parts of the body which are not thus protected, for we have seen a young puppy sleeping, with its bare paw laid on an ice-anchor, with the thermometer at -30°, which with one of our dogs would have produced immediate and intense pain, if not subsequent mortification. They never bark, but have a long melancholy howl like that of the wolf, and this they will sometimes perform in concert for a minute or two together. They are besides always snarling and fighting among one another, by which several of them are generally lame. When much caressed and well fed, they become quite familiar and domestic; but this mode of treatment does not improve their qualities as animals of draught. Being desirous of ascertaining whether these dogs are wolves in a state of domestication, a question which we understood to have been the subject of some speculation, Mr. Skeoch, at my request, made a skeleton of each, when the number of all the vertebra was found to be the same in both, and to correspond with the well-known anatomy of the wolf.
When drawing a sledge, the dogs have a simple harness (annoo) of deer or seal skin, going round the neck by one bight, and another for each of the fore-legs, with a single thong leading over the back and attached to the sledge as a trace. Though they appear at first sight to be huddled together without regard to regularity, there is, in fact, considerable attention paid to their arrangement, particularly in the selection of a dog of peculiar spirit and sagacity, who is allowed, by a longer trace, to precede the rest as leader, and to whom, in turning to the right or left, the driver usually addresses himself. This choice is made without regard to age or sex, and the rest of the dogs take precedency according to their training or sagacity, the least effective being put nearest the sledge. The leader is usually from eighteen to twenty feet from the fore part of the sledge, and the hindmost dog about half that distance, so that when ten or twelve are running together, several are nearly abreast of each other. The driver sits quite low on the fore part of the sledge, with his feet overhanging the snow on one side, and having in his hand a whip, of which the handle, made either of wood, bone, or whalebone, is eighteen inches, and the lash more than as many feet in length. The part of the thong next the handle is plaited a little way down to stiffen it and give it a spring, on which much of its use depends; and that which composes the lash is chewed by the women to make it flexible in frosty weather. The men acquire from their youth considerable expertness in the use of this whip, the lash of which is left to trail along the ground by the side of the sledge, and with which they can inflict a very severe blow on any dog at pleasure. Though the dogs are kept in training entirely by fear of the whip, and indeed without it would soon have their own way, its immediate effect is always detrimental to the draught of the sledge; for not only does the individual that is struck draw back and slacken his trace, but generally turns upon his next neighbour, and this, passing on to the next, occasions a general divergency, accompanied by the usual yelping and showing of teeth. The dogs then come together again by degrees, and the draught of the sledge is accelerated; but, even at the best of times, by this rude mode of draught, the traces of one-third of the dogs form an angle of thirty or forty degrees on each side of the direction in which the sledge is advancing. Another great inconvenience attending the Esquimaux method of putting the dogs to, besides that of not employing their strength to the best advantage, is the constant entanglement of the traces by the dogs repeatedly doubling under from side to side to avoid the whip, so that, after running a few miles, the traces always require to be taken off and cleared.
In directing the sledge the whip acts no very essential part, the driver for this purpose using certain words, as the carters do with us, to make the dogs turn more to the right or left. To these a good leader attends with admirable precision, especially if his own name be repeated at the same time, looking behind over his shoulder with great earnestness, as if listening to the directions of the driver. On a beaten track, or even where a single foot or sledge mark is occasionally discernible, there is not the slightest trouble in guiding the dogs; for even in the darkest night and in the heaviest snowdrift there is little or no danger of their losing the road, the leader keeping his nose near the ground, and directing the rest with wonderful sagacity. Where, however, there is no beaten track, the best driver among them makes a terribly circuitous course, as all the Esquimaux roads plainly show; these generally occupying an extent of six miles, when with a horse and sledge the journey would scarcely have amounted to five. On rough ground, as among hummocks of ice, the sledge would be frequently overturned, or altogether stopped, if the driver did not repeatedly get off, and, by lifting or drawing it to one side, steer it clear of those accidents. At all times, indeed, except on a smooth and well-made road, he is pretty constantly employed thus with his feet, which, together with his never-ceasing vociferations and frequent use of the whip, renders the driving of one of these vehicles by no means a pleasant or easy task. When the driver wishes to stop the sledge, he calls out Wo, woa, exactly as our carters do; but the attention paid to this command depends altogether on his ability to enforce it. If the weight is small and the journey homeward, the dogs are not to be thus delayed; the driver is therefore obliged to dig his heels into the snow to obstruct their progress; and having thus succeeded in stopping them, he stands up with one leg before the foremost cross-piece of the sledge, till, by means of laying the whip gently over each dogs head, he has made them all lie down. He then takes care not to quit his position; so that should the dogs set off he is thrown upon the sledge, instead of being left behind by them.
With heavy loads the dogs draw best with one of their own people, especially a woman, walking a little way ahead; and in this case they are sometimes enticed to mend their pace by holding a mitten to the mouth, and then making the motion of cutting it with a knife, and throwing it on the snow, when the dogs, mistaking it for meat, hasten forward to pick it up. The women also entice them from the huts in a similar manner. The rate at which they travel depends, of course, on the weight they have to draw, and the road on which their journey is performed. When the latter is level and very hard and smooth, constituting what in other parts of North America is called good sleighing, six or seven dogs will draw from eight to ten hundredweight, at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour, for several hours together, and will easily under those circumstances perform a journey of fifty or sixty miles a day; on untrodden snow, five-and-twenty or thirty miles would be a good days journey. The same number of well-fed dogs, with a weight of only five or six hundred pounds (that of the sledge included), are almost unmanageable, and will on a smooth road run any way they please at the rate of ten miles an hour. The work performed by a greater number of dogs is, however, by no means in proportion to this, owing to the imperfect mode already described of employing the strength of these sturdy creatures, and to the more frequent snarling and fighting occasioned by an increase of numbers.
In the summer, when the absence of snow precludes the use of sledges, the dogs are still made useful on journeys and hunting excursions, by being employed to carry burdens in a kind of saddle-bags laid across their shoulders. A stout dog thus accoutred will accompany his master, laden with a weight of about twenty to twenty-five pounds. When leading the dogs, the Esquimaux take a half hitch with the trace round their necks to prevent their pulling, and the same plan is followed when a sledge is left without a keeper. They are also in the habit of tethering them, when from home, by tying up one of the fore-legs; but a still more effectual method is similar to that which we saw employed by the Greenlanders of Prince Regents Bay, and consists in digging with their spears two holes in the ice in an oblique direction and meeting each other, so as to leave an eye-bolt, to which the dogs are fastened.
The scent of the Esquimaux dogs is excellent; and this property is turned to account by their masters in finding the seal holes, which these invaluable animals will discover entirely by the smell at a very great distance. The track of a single deer upon the snow will in like manner set them off at a full gallop, when travelling, at least a quarter of a mile before they arrive at it, when they are with difficulty made to turn in any other direction; and the Esquimaux are accustomed to set them after those animals to hunt them down when already wounded with an arrow. In killing bears the dogs act a very essential part, and two or three of them when led on by a man will eagerly attack one of those ferocious creatures. An Esquimaux seldom uses any other weapon than his spear and panna in this encounter, for which the readiness of the dogs may be implied from the circumstance of the word nennook (bear), being often used to encourage them when running in a sledge. Indeed, the only animal which they are not eager to chase is the wolf, of which the greater part of them seem to have an instinctive dread, giving notice at night of their approach to the huts by a loud and continued howl. There is not one dog in twenty among them that will voluntarily, or indeed without a great deal of beating, take the water if they think it is out of their depth, and the few that would do so were spoken of as extraordinary exceptions.
The Esquimaux in general treat their dogs much as an unfeeling master does his slaves; that is, they take just as much care of them as their own interest is supposed to require. The bitches with young are in the winter allowed to occupy a part of their own beds, where they are carefully attended and fed by the women, who will even supply the young ones with meat and water from their mouths as they do their own children, and not unfrequently also carry them in their hoods to take care of them. It is probably on this account that the dogs are always so much attached to the women, who can at any time catch them or entice them from the huts when the men fail. Two females that were with young on board the Fury in the month of February brought forth six and seven at a litter, and the former number were all females. Their feeding, which, both in summer and winter, principally consists of kw, or the skin and part of the blubber of the walrus, is during the latter season very precarious, their masters having then but little to spare. They therefore become extremely thin at that time of the year, and would scarcely be recognised as the same animals as when regularly fed in the summer. No wonder therefore that they will eat almost anything however tough or filthy, and that neither whipping nor shouting will prevent their turning out of the road, even when going at full speed, to pick up whatever they espy. When at the huts they are constantly creeping in to pilfer what they can, and half the time of the people sitting there is occupied in vociferating their names and driving them by most unmerciful blows out of the apartments. The dogs have no water to drink during the winter, but lick up some clean snow occasionally as a substitute; nor indeed if water be offered them do they care about it unless it happens to be oily. They take great pleasure in rolling in clean snow, especially after or during a journey, or when they have been confined in a house during the night. Notwithstanding the rough treatment which they receive from their masters their attachment to them is very great, and this they display after a short absence by jumping up and licking their faces all over with extreme delight. The Esquimaux, however, never caress them, and indeed scarcely ever take any notice of them but when they offend, and they are not then sparing in their blows. The dogs have all names, to which they attend with readiness, whether drawing in a sledge or otherwise. Their names are frequently the same as those of the people, and in some instances are given after the relations of their masters, which seems to be considered an act of kindness among them. Upon the whole, notwithstanding the services performed by these valuable creatures, I am of opinion that art cannot well have done less towards making them useful, and that the same means in almost any other hands would be employed to greater advantage.
In the disposition of these people, there was of course among so many individuals considerable variety as to the minute points; but in the general features of their character, which with them are not subject to the changes produced by foreign intercourse, one description will nearly apply to all. The virtue which, as respected ourselves, we could most have wished them to possess is honesty, and the impression derived from the early part of our intercourse was certainly in this respect a favourable one. A great many instances occurred, some of which have been related, where they appeared even scrupulous in returning articles that did not belong to them; and this too when detection of a theft, or at least of the offender, would have been next to impossible. As they grew more familiar with us, and the temptations became stronger, they gradually relaxed in their honesty, and petty thefts were from time to time committed by several individuals both male and female among them.
The bustle which any search for stolen goods occasioned at the huts was a sufficient proof of their understanding the estimation in which the crime was held by us. Until the affair was cleared up they would affect great readiness to show every article which they had got from the ships, repeating the name of the donor with great warmth, as if offended at our suspicions, yet with a half-smile on their countenances at our supposed credulity in believing them. There was, indeed, at all times some degree of trick and cunning in this show of openness and candour; and they would at times bring back some very trifling article that had been given them, tendering it as a sort of expiation for the theft of another much more valuable. When a search was making they would invent all sorts of lies to screen themselves, not caring on whom besides the imputation fell; and more than once they directed our people to the apartments of others who were innocent of the offence in question. If they really knew the offender, they were generally ready enough to inform against him, and this with an air of affected secrecy and mysterious importance; and, as if the dishonesty of another constituted a virtue in themselves, they would repeat this information frequently, perhaps for a month afterwards, setting up their neighbours offence as a foil to their own pretended honesty.
In appreciating the character of these people for honesty, however, we must not fail to make due allowance for the degree of temptation to which they were daily exposed amidst the boundless stores of wealth which our ships appeared to them to furnish. To draw a parallel case, we must suppose a European of the lower class suffered to roam about amidst hoards of gold and silver; for nothing less valuable can be justly compared with the wood and iron that everywhere presented themselves to their view on board the ships. The European and the Esquimaux who, in cases so similar, both resist the temptation of stealing, must be considered pretty nearly on a par in the scale of honesty; and judging in this manner, the balance might possibly be found in favour of the latter when compared with any similar number of Europeans taken at random from the lower class.
In what has been hitherto said, regard has been had only to their dealings with us. In their transactions among themselves there is no doubt that, except in one or two privileged cases, such as that of destitute widows, the strictest honesty prevails, and that as regards the good of their own community they are generally honest people. We have in numberless instances sent presents by one to another, and invariably found that they had been faithfully delivered. The manner in which their various implements are frequently left outside their huts is a proof, indeed, that robbery is scarcely known among them. It is true that there is not an article in the possession of one of them of which any of the rest will not readily name the owner, and the detection of a theft would therefore be certain and immediate. Certainty of detection, however, among a lawless and ferocious people, instead of preventing robbery, would more probably add violence and murder to the first crime, and the strongest would ultimately gain the upper hand. We cannot, therefore, but admire the undisturbed security in which these people hold their property without having recourse to any restraint beyond that which is incurred by the tacitly received law of mutual forbearance.
In the barter of their various commodities their dealings with us were fair and upright, though latterly they were by no means backward or inexpert in driving a bargain. The absurd and childish exchanges which they at first made with our people induced them subsequently to complain that the Kabloonas had stolen their things, though the profit had been eventually a hundredfold in their favour. Many such complaints were made when the only fault in the purchaser had been excessive liberality, and frequently also as a retort by way of warding off the imputation of some dishonesty of their own. A trick not uncommon with the women was to endeavour to excite the commiseration and to tax the bounty of one person by relating some cruel theft of this kind that had, as they said, been practised upon them by another. One day, after I had bought a knife of Togolat, she told Captain Lyon, in a most piteous tone, that Parree had stolen her last ooloo, that she did not know what to do without one, and, at length coming to the point, begged him to give her one. Presently after this, her husband coming in and asking for something to eat, she handed him some meat accompanied by a very fine ooloo. Her son, being thus reminded of eating, made the same request, upon which a second knife was produced, and immediately after, a third of the same kind for herself. Captain Lyon, having amused himself in watching these proceedings, which so well confirmed the truth of the proverb that certain people ought to have good memories, now took the knives, one by one, out of their hands, and holding them up to Togolat, asked her if Parree had not stolen her last ooloo. A hearty laugh all round was the only notice taken by them of this direct detection of the deceit.
The confidence which they really placed in us was daily and hourly evinced by their leaving their fishing gear stuck in the snow all round the ships; and not a single instance occurred, to my knowledge, of any theft committed on their property. The licking of the articles received from us was not so common with them as with Esquimaux in general, and this practice was latterly almost entirely left off by them.
Among the unfavourable traits in their character must be reckoned an extreme disposition to envy, which displayed itself on various occasions during our intercourse with them. If we had made any presents in one hut, the inmates of the next would not fail to tell us of it, accompanying their remarks with some satirical observation, too unequivocally expressed to be mistaken, and generally by some stroke of irony directed against the favoured person. If any individual with whom we had been intimate happened to be implicated in a theft, the circumstance became a subject of satisfaction too manifest to be repressed, and we were told of it with expressions of the most triumphant exultation on every occasion. It was indeed curious, though ridiculous, to observe that, even among these simple people, and in this obscure corner of the globe, that little gossip and scandal so commonly practised in small societies among us were very frequently displayed. This was especially the case with the women, of whom it was not uncommon to see a group sitting in a hut for hours together, each relating her quota of information, now and then mimicking the persons of whom they spoke, and interlarding their stories with jokes evidently at the expense of their absent neighbours, though to their own infinite amusement.
In extenuation, however, of these faults, it must be allowed that we were ourselves the exciting cause which called them into action, and without which they would be comparatively of rare occurrence among them. Like every other child of Adam, they undoubtedly possess their share of the seeds of these human frailties; but even in this respect they need not shrink from a comparison with ourselves, for who among us can venture to assure himself that if exposed to similar temptations he would not be found wanting?
To another failing to which they are addicted the same excuse will not so forcibly apply, as in this respect our acquaintance with them naturally furnishes an opportunity for the practice of a virtue, rather than for the development of its opposite vice. I have already, in the course of the foregoing narrative, hinted at the want of gratitude evinced by these people in their transactions with us. Among themselves, almost the only case in which this sentiment can have any field for exertion is in the conduct of children towards their parents, and in this respect, as I shall presently have occasion to notice, their gratitude is by no means conspicuous. Anything like a free gift is very little, if at all, known among them. If A gives B a part of his seal to-day, the latter soon returns an equal quantity when he is the successful fisherman. Uncertain as their mode of living is, and dependent as they are upon each others exertions, this custom is the evident and unquestionable interest of all. The regulation does credit to their wisdom, but has nothing to do with their generosity. This being the case, it might be supposed that our numerous presents, for which no return was asked, would have excited in them something like thankfulness, combined with admiration; but this was so little the case that the coyenna (thanks) which did now and then escape them, expressed much less than even the most common-place thank ye of civilised society. Some exceptions, for they were only exceptions, and rare ones, to this rule have been mentioned as they occurred; but, in general, however considerable the benefit conferred, it was forgotten in a day; and this forgetfulness was not unfrequently aggravated by their giving out that their benefactor had been so shabby as to make them no present at all. Even those individuals who, either from good behaviour or superior intelligence, had been most noticed by us, and particularly such as had slept on board the ships, and whether in health or sickness had received the most friendly treatment from everybody, were in general just as indifferent as the rest; and I do not believe that any one amongst them would have gone half a mile out of his road, or have sacrificed the most trivial self-gratification, to have served us. Though the riches lay on our side, they possessed abundant means of making some nominal return, which, for the sake of the principle that prompted it, would of course have been gratifying to us. Okotook and Iligliuk, whom I had most loaded with presents, and who had never offered me a single free gift in return, put into my hand, at the time of their first removal from Winter Island, a dirty crooked model of a spear, so shabbily constructed that it had probably been already refused as an article of barter by many of the ships company. On my accepting this, from an unwillingness to affront them, they were uneasy and dissatisfied till I had given them something in return, though their hands were full of the presents which I had just made them. Selfishness is, in fact, almost without exception their universal characteristic, and the main-spring of all their actions, and that, too, of a kind the most direct and unamiable that can well be imagined.
In the few opportunities we had of putting their hospitality to the test, we had every reason to be pleased with them. Both as to food and accommodation, the best they had were always at our service; and their attention, both in kind and degree, was everything that hospitality and even good breeding could dictate. The kindly offices of drying and mending our clothes, cooking our provision, and thawing snow for our drink were performed by the women with an obliging cheerfulness which we shall not easily forget, and which commanded its due share of our admiration and esteem. While thus their guest, I have passed an evening not only with comfort, but with extreme gratification; for with the women working and singing, their husbands quietly mending their lines, the children playing before the door, and the pot boiling over the blaze of a cheerful lamp, one might well forget for the time that an Esquimaux hut was the scene of this domestic comfort and tranquillity; and I can safely affirm with Cartwright, that, while thus lodged beneath their roof, I know no people whom I would more confidently trust, as respects either my person or my property, than the Esquimaux. It is painful, and may perhaps be considered invidious after this, to inquire how far their hospitality would in all probability be extended if interest were wholly separated from its practice, and a stranger were destitute and unlikely soon to repay them. But truth obliges me to confess that, from the extreme selfishness of their general conduct, as well as from their behaviour in some instances to the destitute of their own tribe, I should be sorry to lie under the necessity of thus drawing very largely on their bounty.
The estimation in which women are held among these people is, I think, somewhat greater than is usual in savage life. In their general employments they are by no means the drudges that the wives of the Greenlanders are said to be; being occupied only in those cares which may properly be called domestic, and as such are considered the peculiar business of the women among the lower classes in civilised society. The wife of one of these people, for instance, makes and attends the fire, cooks the victuals, looks after the children, and is sempstress to her whole family; while her husband is labouring abroad for their subsistence. In this respect it is not even necessary to except their task of cutting up the small seals, which is, in truth, one of the greatest luxuries and privileges they enjoy; and even if it were esteemed a labour, it could scarcely be considered equivalent to that of the women in many of our own fishing-towns, where the mens business is at an end the moment the boat touches the beach. The most laborious of their tasks occurs perhaps in making their various journeys, when all their goods and chattels are to be removed at once, and when each individual must undoubtedly perform a full share of the general labour. The women are, however, good walkers, and not easily fatigued; for we have several times known a young woman of two-and-twenty, with a child in her hood, walk twelve miles to the ships and back again the same day for the sake of a little bread-dust and a tin canister. When stationary in the winter, they have really almost a sinecure of it, sitting quietly in their huts, and having little or no employment for the greater part of the day. In short, there are few, if any, people in this state of society among whom the women are so well off. They always sit upon the beds with their legs doubled under them, and are uneasy in the posture usual with us. The men sometimes sit as we do, but more generally with their legs crossed before them.
The women do not appear to be in general very prolific. Illumea, indeed, had borne seven children, but no second instance of an equal number in one family afterwards came to our knowledge; three or four is about the usual number. They are, according to their own account, in the habit of suckling their children to the age of three years; but we have seen a child of five occasionally at the breast, though they are dismissed from the mothers hood at about the former age. The time of weaning them must of course, in some instances, depend on the mothers again becoming pregnant, and if this succeeds quickly it must, as Crantz relates of the Greenlanders, go hard with one of the infants. Nature, however, seems to be kind to them in this respect, for we did not witness one instance, nor hear of any, in which a woman was put to this inconvenience and distress. It is not uncommon to see one woman suckling the child of another, while the latter happens to be employed in her other domestic occupations. They are in the habit also of feeding their younger children from their own mouths, softening the food by mastication, and then turning their heads round, so that the infant in the hood may put its lips to theirs. The chill is taken from water for them in the same manner, and some fathers are very fond of taking their children on their knees and thus feeding them. The women are more desirous of having sons than daughters, as on the former must principally depend their support in old age.
Twelve of the men had each two wives, and some of the younger ones had also two betrothed; two instances occurred of the father and son being married to sisters. The custom of betrothing children in their infancy is commonly practised here, in which respect these people differ from the natives of Greenland, where it is comparatively rare. A daughter of Arnaneelia, between two and three years old, had long been thus contracted to Okotooks son, a hero of six or seven, and the latter used to run about the hut, calling his intended by the familiar appellation of Nll- (wife), to the great amusement of the parents. When a man has two wives, there is generally a difference of five or six years in their ages. The senior takes her station next the principal fire, which comes entirely under her management; and she is certainly considered in some respects superior to the other, though they usually live together in the utmost harmony. The men sometimes repudiate their wives without ceremony, in case of real or supposed bad behaviour, as in Greenland, but this does not often occur. There was a considerable disparity of age between many of the men and their wives, the husband being sometimes the oldest by twenty years or more, and this also when he had never married any former wife. We knew no instance in which the number of a mans wives exceeded two, and indeed we had every reason to believe that the practice is never admitted among them. We met with a singular instance of two men having exchanged wives, in consequence merely of one of the latter being pregnant at the time when her husband was about to undertake a long journey.
The authority of the husband seems to be sufficiently absolute, depending nevertheless in great measure on the dispositions of the respective parties. Iligliuk was one of those women who seemed formed to manage their husbands; and we one day saw her take Okotook to task in a very masterly style for having bartered away a good jacket for an old useless pistol without powder or shot. He attempted at first to bluster in his turn, and with most women would probably have gained his point. But with Iligliuk this would not do; she saw at once the absurdity of his bargain, and insisted on his immediately cancelling it, which was accordingly done, and no more said about it. In general, indeed, the husband maintains his authority, and in several instances of supposed bad behaviour in a wife, we saw obedience enforced in a pretty summary manner. It is very rare, however, to see them proceed to this extremity; and the utmost extent of a husbands want of tenderness towards his wife consists in general in making her walk or lead the dogs, while he takes his own seat in the sledge and rides in comfort. Widows, as might be expected, are not so well off as those whose husbands are living, and this difference is especially apparent in their clothes, which are usually very dirty, thin, and ragged; when indeed they happen to have no near relatives, their fate, as we have already seen, is still worse than this.
I fear we cannot give a very favourable account of the chastity of the women, nor of the delicacy of their husbands in this respect. As for the latter, it was not uncommon for them to offer their wives as freely for sale as a knife or a jacket. Some of the young men informed us that, when two of them were absent together on a sealing excursion, they often exchanged wives for the time, as a matter of friendly convenience; and indeed, without mentioning any other instances of this nature, it may safely be affirmed that in no country is prostitution carried to greater lengths than among these people. The behaviour of most of the women when their husbands were absent from the huts plainly evinced their indifference towards them, and their utter disregard of connubial fidelity. The departure of the men was usually the signal for throwing aside restraint, which was invariably resumed on their return. For this event they take care to be prepared by the report of the children, one of whom is usually posted on the outside for the purpose of giving due notice.
The affection of parents for their children was frequently displayed by these people, not only in the mere passive indulgence, and abstinence from corporal punishment, for which Esquimaux have before been remarked, but by a thousand playful endearments also, such as parents and nurses practise in our own country. Nothing indeed can well exceed the kindness with which they treat their children; and this trait in their character deserves to be the more insisted on, because it is in reality the only very amiable one which they possess. It must be confessed, indeed, that the gentleness and docility of the children are such as to occasion their parents little trouble, and to render severity towards them quite unnecessary. Even from their earliest infancy, they possess that quiet disposition, gentleness of demeanour, and uncommon evenness of temper, for which in more mature age they are for the most part distinguished. Disobedience is scarcely ever known, a word or even a look from a parent is enough; and I never saw a single instance of that frowardness and disposition to mischief which with our youth so often requires the whole attention of a parent to watch over and to correct. They never cry from trifling accidents, and sometimes not even from very severe hurts, at which an English child would sob for an hour. It is indeed astonishing to see the indifference with which, even as tender infants, they bear the numerous blows they accidentally receive when carried at their mothers backs.
They are just as fond of play as any other young people, and of the same kind; only that while an English child draws a cart of wood, an Esquimaux of the same age has a sledge of whalebone; and for the superb baby-house of the former, the latter builds a miniature hut of snow, and begs a lighted wick from her mothers lamp to illuminate the little dwelling. Their parents make for them, as dolls, little figures of men and women, habited in the true Esquimaux costume, as well as a variety of other toys, many of them having some reference to their future occupations in life, such as canoes, spears, and bows and arrows. The drum or tambourine, mentioned by Crantz, is common among them, and used not only by the children, but by the grown-up people at some of their games. They sometimes serrate the edges of two strips of whalebone and whirl them round their heads, just as boys do in England to make the same peculiar humming sound. They will dispose one piece of wood on another, as an axis, in such a manner that the wind turns it round like the arms of a windmill; and so of many other toys of the same simple kind. These are the distinct property of the children, who will sometimes sell them while their parents look on, without interfering or expecting to be consulted.