September 10, 1949
Caribou hunting is vital to them now as before; from it they obtain food, clothes, tents, sewing thread, rope, etc. Caribou meat is, generally speaking, served at all meals. The Nunamiut Eskimos live a nomad life in the caribou's tracks.
Nunamiut, Among Alaska's Inland Eskimos
The Brooks Mountains are a world of their own, almost untouched. One may wander far and wide through valleys and gorges, along rivers and lakes, and enjoy the fine flavour of the land's virginity. One can meet mountain sheep or bears which stand rooted to the ground at the sight of a man, because they have never seen such a thing before. Giant trout swim in the lakes, multiply, and die of old age. And in the heart of the mountains is a little band of men.
The Nunamiuts in the Brooks Mountains are divided into two groups, the Raven people (Tulugarmiut) and the Killik people (Killermiut). The people have little knowledge of the world outside.
Between the Nunamiuts and the outer world there is such a wide, tangled wilderness that communication has to be by plane. The main prop of their existence is, as I have said, the airman Sig Wien. Sevele times a year he or one of his men flies in with a quantity of simple things such as ammunition, tobacco, coffee, a little cotton material for the women, knives, sauce-pans, etc., and takes their wolfskins in exchange. What the Eskimos thus obtain from outside is very modest in quantity, for they are poor and transport is expensive.
There is thus a dash of civilization in the Eskimos' material culture, but in essentials their life takes the same shape as that of their ancestors. Caribou hunting is vital to them now as before; from it they obtain food, clothes, tents, sewing thread, rope, etc. Caribou meat is, generally speaking, served at all meals. They live a nomad life in the caribou's tracks. If luck is with them, and thousands of beasts stream over the country-side in the neighbourhood of the settlement, there are rejoicings and festivities among the mountain people. But it may happen that the barren country is empty, with not a living creature in sight. The last time the caribou failed, many Nunamiuts died of starvation.
Of civilized food there is barely a trace. The Killik people, who were unlucky with their wolf hunting the year before, have practically nothing. One or two of the Raven people have some coffee, a scrap of sugar, and a little tobacco. The small quantity of bought food is just a dash of luxury to vary the caribou meat which is the universal food.