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 deg.; when removed two or three feet from this situation, it fell to 31 deg.; and, placed close to the wall, stood at 23 deg., the temperature of the open air at the time being 25 deg. 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 =o=otk~o~os~e~eks, 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 watertight.
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 walrus's tusk, are precisely similar to those described on the western coast of Baffin's 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 butcher's 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 Imm=o=ochiuk.
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 spearhead, 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 Hudson's Bay. The same may be observed of the best of their women's 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.
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 (patt=ekniuk, from p=att~ek, 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.
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 dependance, however, is on the reindeer (t=o=okto~o); musk-ox (=o=om~ingm~uk), in the parts where this animal is found; whale (=agg~aw~ek); walrus (=ei-~u-~ek); the large and small seal (=og~uke and n~eitiek); and two sorts of salmon, the =ew~ee-t=ar~oke (salmo alpinus?) and ichl=u~ow~oke. The latter is taken by hooks in fresh-water 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 ship's 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 k=ay~o, made of blood, gravy, and water, and eaten quite hot.
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 ootkooseeks 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 deg. 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 downward a little from the centre towards the head and stern, giving it the appearance of what in ships is 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 sown 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 snowdrift 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 woman's 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 =o=on~ak, 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 narwhal's 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 si=atk~o, 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 =allek, 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.
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 =akl~eak or akl=e=eg~a, used for the large seal, has a blown bladder attached to the staff, for the purpose of impeding the animal in the water.
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 sealskin (h~ow-w=ut-t~a), inflated like a bladder, for the purpose of tiring it out in its progress through the water.
They have a spear called ~ippoo for killing deer in the water. They describe it as having a light staff and a small head of iron; but they had none of these so fitted in the winter. The n=ug~uee, 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 inward. The spear for salmon or other fish, called k=ak~eew~ei, 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 downward. Their fishhooks (kakli=okio) 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 deer's 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 sealskin 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 reappearing after some time, all the canoes again paddle towards him, some warning being given by the sealskin 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 the 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.
In attacking the walrus in the water they use the same gear, but 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. 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 t~oop=o=ot~a, 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.
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 treenails 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 plat 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 number of strings in the middle of the bow sometimes amount to sixty. These being put on with the bow bent somewhat 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 treenails.
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 treenails. Towards the opposite end of the arrow are two feathers, generally of the spotted oval, not very neatly lashed on. The bowstring 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.
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, which 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 companion's 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. A great number of them, 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. 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. By the information afterward 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 63-3/4 deg., 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 Middleton's visit to that inlet about the middle of the last century.
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.
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 feet 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 sealskins 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 cross-pieces which form the bottom of the sledges are made of bone, wood, or anything they can muster. Over these is generally laid a sealskin as a flooring, and in the summer time a pair of deer's 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 colour of the dogs varies from a white, through brindled, to black and white, or almost entirely black. 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 deg., 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 vertebrae 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, which is allowed, by a longer trace, to precede the rest as leader, and to which, 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 precedence 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 hindermost 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 platted 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 his 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 crosspiece of the sledge, till, by means of laying the whip gently over each dog's 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 hundred weight, 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 day's 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 or twenty-five pounds.
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 "nen-nook" (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 k=a~ow, 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 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 countenance at our supposed credulity in believing them. There was, indeed, at all times, some, 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 event 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 afterward, setting up their neighbour's 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 allowance for the degree of temptation to which they were daily exposed, amid the boundless stores of wealth which our ships appeared to them to furnish. To draw a parallel case, we must suppose an European of the lower class suffered to roam about amid 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 to 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.
In the barter of their various commodities, their dealings with us were fair and upright, though latterly they were by no means backward nor 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 eventually been a hundred-fold 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 observations, 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 even 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.
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. 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 among them would have gone half a mile out of his road, or have sacrificed the most trivial self-gratification to serve 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 ship's 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 mainspring 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.
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 Greenlander's 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 civilized 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 men's business is at an end the moment the boat touches the beach. The most laborious of their tasks occur, 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 afterward 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 mother's hood at about the former age. 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 Okotook's son, a hero of six or seven, and the latter used to run about the hut calling his intended by the familiar appellation of N~o~oll=e-~a (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 man's 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 seem 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 very summary manner. It is very rare, however, to see them proceed to this extremity; and the utmost extent of a husband's want of tenderness towards his wife consists 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 corporeal 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 mother's 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 tambarine, 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.
When not more than eight years old, the boys are taken by their fathers on their sealing excursions, where they begin to learn their future business; and even at that early age they are occasionally intrusted to bring home a sledge and dogs from a distance of several miles over the ice. At the age of eleven we see a boy with his water-tight boots and moccasins, a spear in his hand, and a small coil of line at his back, accompanying the men to the fishery, under every circumstance; and from this time his services daily increase in value to the whole tribe. On our first intercourse with them we supposed that they would not unwillingly part with their children, in consideration of some valuable present, but in this we afterward found that we were much mistaken. Happening one day to call myself Toolooak's attata (father), and pretend that he was to remain with me on board the ship, I received from the old man, his father, no other answer than what seemed to be very strongly and even satirically implied, by his taking one of our gentlemen by the arm and calling him his son; thus intimating that the adoption which he proposed was as feasible and as natural as my own.
The custom of adoption is carried to very great lengths among these people, and served to explain to us several apparent inconsistencies with respect to their relationships. The custom owes its origin entirely to the obvious advantage of thus providing for a man's own subsistence in advanced life; and it is consequently confined almost without exception to the adoption of sons, who can alone contribute materially to the support of an aged and infirm parent. When a man adopts the son of another as his own, he is said to "tego," or take him; and at whatever age this is done (though it generally happens in infancy), the child then lives with his new parents, calls them father and mother, is sometimes even ignorant of any such transfer having been made, especially if his real parents should be dead; and whether he knows it or not, is not always willing to acknowledge any but those with whom he lives. The agreement seems to be always made between the fathers, and to differ in no respect from the transfer of other property, except that none can equal in value the property thus disposed of. The good sense, good fortune, or extensive claims of some individuals were particularly apparent in this way, from the number of sons they had adopted. Toolemak, deriving, perhaps, some advantage from his qualifications as Angetkook, had taken care to negotiate for the adoption of some of the finest male children of the tribe; a provision which now appeared the more necessary, from his having lost four children of his own, besides Noogloo, who was one of his tego'd sons. In one of the two instances that came to our knowledge of the adoption of a female child, both its own parents were still living, nor could we ascertain the motive for this deviation from the more general custom.
In their behaviour to old people, whose age or infirmities render them useless, and, therefore, burdensome to the community, the Esquimaux betray a degree of insensibility bordering on inhumanity, and ill repaying the kindness of an indulgent parent. The old man Hikkeiera, who was very ill during the winter, used to lie day after day, little regarded by his wife, son, daughter, and other relatives, except that his wretched state constituted, as they well knew, a forcible claim upon our charity; and, with this view, it was sure to excite a whine of sympathy and commiseration whenever we visited or spoke of him. When, however, a journey of ten miles was to be performed over the ice, they left him to find his way with a stick in the best manner he could, while the young and robust ones were many of them drawn on sledges. There is, indeed, no doubt that, had their necessities or mode of life required a longer journey than he could thus have accomplished, they would have pushed on like the Indians, and left a fellow-creature to perish. It was certainly considered incumbent on his son to support him, and he was fortunate in that son's being a very good man; but a few more such journeys to a man of seventy would not impose this encumbrance upon him much longer. Illumea, the mother of several grown-up children, lived also in the same hut with her other relations. She did not, however, interfere, as in Greenland, with the management of her son's domestic concerns, though his wife was half an idiot. She was always badly clothed, and, even in the midst of plenty, not particularly well-fed, receiving everything more as an act of charity than otherwise; and she will probably be less and less attended to, in proportion as she stands more in need of assistance.
The different families appear always to live on good terms with each other, though each preserves its own habitation and property as distinct and independent as any housekeeper in England. The persons living under one roof, who are generally closely related, maintain a degree of harmony among themselves which is scarcely ever disturbed. The more turbulent passions which, when unrestrained by religious principle, or unchecked by the dread of human punishment, usually create so much havoc in the world, seem to be very seldom excited in the breasts of these people, which renders personal violence or immoderate anger extremely rare among them; and one may sit in a hut for a whole day, and never observe an angry word or look, except in driving out the dogs. If they take an offence, it is more common for them to show it by the more quiet method of sulkiness, and this they now and then tried as a matter of experiment with us. Okotook, who was often in this humour, once displayed it to some of our gentlemen in his own hut, by turning his back and frequently repeating the expression "good-by," as a broad hint to them to go away. Toolooak was also a little given to this mood, but never retained it long, and there was no malice mixed with his displeasure. One evening that he slept on board the Fury, he either offended Mr. Skeoch, or thought that he had done so, by this kind of humour; at all events, they parted for the night without any formal reconciliation. The next morning Mr. Skeoch was awakened at an unusually early hour, by Toolooak's entering his cabin and taking hold of his hand to shake it, by way of making up the supposed quarrel. On a disposition thus naturally charitable, what might not Christian education and Christian principles effect? Where a joke is evidently intended, I never knew people more ready to join in it than these are. If ridiculed for any particularity of manner, figure, or countenance, they are sure not to be long behind-hand in returning it, and that very often with interest. If we were the aggressors in this way, some ironical observation respecting the Kabloonas was frequently the consequence; and no small portion of wit as well as irony was at times mixed with their raillery.
In point of intellect as well as disposition, great variety was, of course, perceptible among the different individuals of this tribe; but few of them were wanting in that respect. Some, indeed, possessed a degree of natural quickness and intelligence which, perhaps, could hardly be surpassed in the natives of any country. Iligliuk, though one of the least amiable, was particularly thus gifted. When she really wished to develop our meaning, she would desire her husband and all the rest to hold their tongues, and would generally make it out while they were puzzling their heads to no purpose. In returning her answers, the very expression of her countenance, though one of the plainest among them, was almost of itself sufficient to convey her meaning; and there was, in these cases, a peculiarly decisive energy in her manner of speaking which was extremely interesting. This woman would, indeed, have easily learned anything to which she chose to direct her attention; and had her lot been cast in a civilized country instead of this dreary region, which serves alike to "freeze the genial current of the soul" and body, she would probably have been a very clever person. For want of a sufficient object, however, neither she nor any of her companions ever learned a dozen words of English, except our names, with which it was their interest to be familiar, and which, long before we left them, any child could repeat, though in their own style of pronunciation.
Besides the natural authority of parents and husbands, these people appear to admit no kind of superiority among one another, except a certain degree of superstitious reverence for their angetkooks, and their tacitly following the counsel or steps of the most active seal-catcher on their hunting excursions. The word nallegak, used in Greenland to express "master," and "lord" in the Esquimaux translations of the Scriptures, they were not acquainted with. One of the young men at Winter Island appeared to be considered somewhat in the light of a servant to Okotook, living with the latter, and quietly allowing him to take possession of all the most valuable presents which he received from us. Being a sociable people, they unite in considerable numbers to form a settlement for the winter; but on the return of spring they again separate into several parties, each appearing to choose his own route, without regard to that of the rest, but all making their arrangements without the slightest disagreement or difference of opinion that we could ever discover. In all their movements, they seem to be actuated by one simultaneous feeling that is truly admirable.
Superior as our arts, contrivances, and materials must unquestionably have appeared to them, and eager as they were to profit by this superiority, yet, contradictory as it may seem, they certainly looked upon us in many respects with profound contempt; maintaining that idea of self-sufficiency which has induced them, in common with the rest of their nation, to call themselves, by way of distinction, Innue, or mankind. One day, for instance, in securing some of the gear of a sledge, Okotook broke a part of it, composed of a piece of our white line, and I shall never forget the contemptuous sneer with which he muttered in soliloquy the word "Kabloona!" in token of the inferiority of our materials to his own. It is happy, perhaps, when people, possessing so few of the good things of this life, can be thus contented with the little allotted them.
The men, though low in stature, are not wanting in muscular strength in proportion to their size, or in activity and hardiness. They are good and even quick walkers, and occasionally bear much bodily fatigue, wet, and cold, without appearing to suffer by it, much less to complain of it. Whatever labour they have gone through, and with whatever success in procuring game, no individual ever seems to arrogate to himself the credit of having done more than his neighbour for the general good. Nor do I conceive there is reason to doubt their personal courage, though they are too good-natured often to excite others to put that quality to the test. It is true, they will recoil with horror at the tale of an Indian massacre, and probably cannot conceive what should induce one set of men deliberately and without provocation to murder another. War is not their trade; ferocity forms no part of the disposition of the Esquimaux. Whatever manly qualities they possess are exercised in a different way, and put to a far more worthy purpose. They are fishermen, and not warriors; but I cannot call that man a coward who, at the age of one-and-twenty, will attack a polar bear single-handed, or fearlessly commit himself to floating masses of ice, which the next puff of wind may drift for ever from the shore.
Of the few arts possessed by this simple people, some account has already been given in the description of their various implements. As mechanics, they have little to boast when compared with other savages lying under equal disadvantages as to scantiness of tools and materials. As carpenters, they can scarf two pieces of wood together, secure them with pins of whalebone or ivory, fashion the timbers of a canoe, shoe a paddle, and rivet a scrap of iron into a spear or arrow-head. Their principal tool is the knife (panna); and, considering the excellence of a great number which they possessed previous to our intercourse with them, the work they do is remarkably coarse and clumsy. Their very manner of holding and handling a knife is the most awkward that can be imagined. For the purpose of boring holes, they have a drill and bow so exactly like our own, that they need no farther description, except that the end of the drill handle, which our artists place against their breasts, is rested by these people against a piece of wood or bone held in their mouths, and having a cavity fitted to receive it. With the use of the saw they were well acquainted, but had nothing of this kind in their possession better than a notched piece of iron. One or two small European axes were lashed to handles in a contrary direction to ours, that is, to be used like an adze, a form which, according to the observation of a traveller well qualified to judge, savages in general prefer. It was said that these people steamed or boiled wood, in order to bend it for fashioning the timbers of their canoes. As fishermen or seamen, they can put on a woolding or seizing with sufficient strength and security, and are acquainted with some of the most simple and serviceable knots in use among us. In all the arts, however, practised by the men, it is observable that the ingenuity lies in the principle, not in the execution. The experience of ages has led them to adopt the most efficacious methods, but their practice as handicrafts has gone no farther than absolute necessity requires; they bestow little labour upon neatness or ornament.
In some of the few arts practised by the women there is much more dexterity displayed, particularly in that important branch of a housewife's business, sewing, which, even with their own clumsy needles of bone, they perform with extraordinary neatness. They had, however, several steel needles of a three-cornered shape, which they kept in a very convenient case, consisting of a strip of leather passed through a hollow bone, and having its ends remaining out, so that the needles which are stuck into it may be drawn in and out at pleasure. These cases were sometimes ornamented by cutting; and several thimbles of leather, one of which, in sewing, is worn on the first finger, are usually attached to it, together with a bunch of narrow spoons and other small articles liable to be lost. The thread they use is the sinew of the reindeer (tooktoo =ew=all~o~o), or, when they cannot procure this, the swallow-pipe of the neiliek. This may be split into threads of different sizes, according to the nature of their work, and is certainly a most admirable material. This, together with any other articles of a similar kind, they keep in little bags, which are sometimes made of the skin of birds' feet, disposed with the claws downward in a very neat and tasteful manner. In sewing, the point of the needle is entered and drawn through in a direction towards the body, and not from it or towards one side, as with our seamstresses. They sew the deerskins with a "round seam," and the water-tight boots and shoes are "stitched." The latter is performed in a very adroit and efficacious manner, by putting the needle only half through the substance of one part of the sealskin, so as to leave no hole for admitting the water. In cutting out the clothes, the women do it after one regular and uniform pattern, which probably descends unaltered from generation to generation. The skin of the deer's head is always made to form the apex of the hood, while that of the neck and shoulders comes down the back of the jacket; and so of every other part of the animal which is appropriated to its particular portion of the dress. To soften the sealskins of which the boots, shoes, and mittens are made, the women chew them for an hour or two together and the young girls are often seen employed in thus preparing the materials for their mothers. The covering of the canoes is a part of the women's business, in which good workmanship is especially necessary to render the whole smooth and water-tight. The skins, which are those of the neitiek only, are prepared by scraping off the hair and the fleshy parts with an ooloo, and stretching them out tight on a frame, in which state they are left over the lamps or in the sun for several days to dry; and after this they are well chewed by the women to make them fit for working. The dressing of leather and of skins in the hair, is an art which the women have brought to no inconsiderable degree of perfection. They perform this by first cleansing the skin from as much of the fat and fleshy matter as the ooloo will take off, and then rubbing it hard for several hours with a blunt scraper, called si=ak~o~ot, so as nearly to dry it. It is then put into a vessel containing urine, and left to steep a couple of days, after which a drying completes the process. Skins dressed in the hair are, however, not always thus steeped; the women, instead of this, chewing them for hours together till they are quite soft and clean. Some of the leather thus dressed looked nearly as well as ours, and the hair was as firmly fixed to the pelt; but there was in this respect a very great difference, according to the art or attention of the housewife. Dyeing is an art wholly unknown to them. The women are very expert at platting, which is usually done with three threads of sinew; if greater strength is required, several of these are twisted slackly together, as in the bowstrings. The quickness with which some of the women plat is really surprising; and it is well that they do so, for the quantity required for the bows alone would otherwise occupy half the year in completing it.
It may be supposed that, among so cheerful a people as the Esquimaux, there are many games or sports practised; indeed, it was rarely that we visited their habitations without seeing some engaged in them. One of these our gentlemen saw at Winter Island, on an occasion when most of the men were absent from the huts on a sealing excursion, and in this Iligliuk was the chief performer. Being requested to amuse them in this way, she suddenly unbound her hair, platted it, tied both ends together to keep it out of her way, and then stepping out into the middle of the hut, began to make the most hideous faces that can be conceived, by drawing both lips into her mouth, poking forward her chin, squinting frightfully, occasionally shutting one eye, and moving her head from side to side as if her neck had been dislocated. This exhibition, which they call =ay=ok~it-t=ak-poke, and which is evidently considered an accomplishment that few of them possess in perfection, distorts every feature in the most horrible manner imaginable, and would, I think, put our most skilful horse-collar grinners quite out of countenance.
The next performance consists in looking steadfastly and gravely forward, and repeating the words t~ab=ak-tabak, k~eib=o-keibo, k~e-b=ang-~e-n=u-t~o-~e~ek, kebang-enutoeek, ~am=at~am=a-amatama, in the order in which they are here placed, but each at least four times, and always by a peculiar modulation of the voice, speaking them in pairs as they are coupled above. The sound is made to proceed from the throat in a way much resembling ventriloquism, to which art it is indeed an approach. After the last amatama Iligliuk always pointed with her finger towards her body, and pronounced the word angetkook, steadily retaining her gravity for five or six seconds, and then bursting into a loud laugh, in which she was joined by all the rest. The women sometimes produce a much more guttural and unnatural sound, repeating principally the word =ikk~er~ee-ikkeree, coupling them as before, and staring in such a manner as to make their eyes appear ready to burst out of their sockets with the exertion. Two or more of them will sometimes stand up face to face, and with great quickness and regularity respond to each other, keeping such exact time that the sound appears to come from one throat instead of several. Very few of the females are possessed of this accomplishment, which is called pitkoo-she-r=ak-poke, and it is not uncommon to see several of the younger females practising it. A third part of the game, distinguished by the word keit=ik-poke, consists only in falling on each knee alternately—a piece of agility which they perform with tolerable quickness, considering the bulky and awkward nature of their dress.
The last kind of individual exhibition was still performed by Iligliuk, to whom in this, as in almost everything else, the other women tacitly acknowledged their inferiority, by quietly giving place to her on every occasion. She now once more came forward, and letting her arms hang down loosely and bending her body very much forward, shook herself with, extreme violence, as if her whole frame had been strongly convulsed, uttering at the same time, in a wild tone of voice, some of the unnatural sounds before mentioned.
This being at an end, a new exhibition was commenced, in which ten or twelve women took a part, and which our gentlemen compared to blind-man's buff. A circle being formed, and a boy despatched to look out at the door of the hut, Iligliuk, still the principal actress, placed herself in the centre, and after making a variety of guttural noises for about half a minute, shut her eyes and ran about till she had taken hold of one of the others, whose business it then became to take her station in the centre, so that almost every woman in her turn occupied this post; and in her own peculiar way, either by distortion of countenance or other gestures, performed her part in the game. This continued three quarters of an hour; and, from the precaution of placing a look-out, who was withdrawn when it was over, as well as from some very expressive signs which need not here be mentioned, there is reason to believe that it is usually followed by certain indecencies, with which their husbands are not to be acquainted. Kaoongut was present, indeed, on this occasion, but his age seemed to render him a privileged person; besides which, his own wife did not join in the game.
The most common amusement, however, and to which their husbands made no objection, they performed at Winter Island expressly for our gratification. The females being collected to the number of ten or twelve, stood in as large a circle as the hut would admit, with Okotook in the centre. He began by a sort of half howling, half singing noise, which appeared as if designed to call the attention of the women, the latter soon commencing the Amna Aya song hereafter described. This they continued without variety, remaining quite still while Okotook walked round within the circle; his body was rather bent forward, his eyes sometimes closed, his arms constantly moving up and down, and now and then hoarsely vociferating a word or two, as if to increase the animation of the singers, who, whenever he did this, quitted the chorus and rose into the words of the song. At the end of ten minutes they all left off at once, and after one minute's interval commenced a second act precisely similar and of equal duration; Okotook continuing to invoke their muse as before. A third act, which followed this, varied only in his frequently, towards the close, throwing his feet up before and clapping his hands together, by which exertion he was thrown into a violent perspiration. He then retired, desiring a young man (who, as we were informed, was the only individual of several then present thus qualified) to take his place in the centre as master of the ceremonies, when the same antics as before were again gone through. After this description it will scarcely be necessary to remark, that nothing can be poorer in its way than this tedious singing recreation, which, as well as everything in which dancing is concerned, they express by the word m~om=ek-poke. They seem, however, to take great delight in it; and even a number of men, as well as all the children, crept into the hut by degrees to peep at the performance.