February 17, 1912
Ilavinirk continued: “Yes, it is a great pity; for the missionary has told us Christ came to all the people of the earth, and He never came to the Eskimo. I suppose that must have been because He visited the other countries first, and had not yet found time to visit the Eskimo before He was killed.”
My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 27
Some of the things concerning which the Eskimo have received new ideas from the missionaries are of a somewhat fundamental nature; other things which Ilavinirk believed the missionaries to have taught his people are rather immaterial and make little difference one way or the other. He told me one day that he had often wondered why it was that the mammoth are all extinct. He knew now, however, for Mr. Whittaker, the missionary at Herschel Island, had explained to them how it was. After God created the earth and made the people and the animals in it, the people gradually became wickeder and wickeder, until God made up His mind to destroy them all by drowning. But one man called Noah was an excellent man. God went to him one day and told him to build a ship, and to take into it all his family, and to invite all the animals of the earth to enter the ship also. Noah did as he was directed and invited the animals to enter, and they all entered except the mammoth. When Noah asked the mammoth why they had not come into the ship also, they said they did not think there would be much of a flood; and anyway, if there were something of a flood, they thought their legs were long enough to keep their heads above water. So God became angry with the mammoth; and although the other animals were saved, He drowned all the mammoth. That is why the caribou and the wolves and foxes are still alive, and why the mammoth are all dead.
With reference to this story and others, I used to argue with our Eskimo, telling them that they must have misunderstood the missionary, and that he could not have said any such thing; but my arguing was without avail. While they considered that I was fairly reliable in every-day affairs, they had my own word for it that in spiritual matters I had no special knowledge. And anyway, they said, in the old days one man knew taboos and doctrines which another did not know, even though both were shamans, and so they thought it was perfectly possible that Mr. Whittaker might know things about God and His works of which I had never heard. Then, too, they said, “ He tells us these things when he is preaching ” ( which being interpreted means that when he was preaching, Mr.' Whittaker was the spokesman of God in the same sense that the shamans had been the spokesmen of the spirits under the old system. In other words, when they listen to a missionary preaching they hear the voice of Jehovah speaking through the mouth of a man).
I had many talks with Ilavinirk on religion, for he was communicative, and his mental processes, typical as they are of those of his people, were of the greatest interest to me. It was Dr. Anderson, however, who told me the following : It was when he and Ilavinirk and some other Eskimo in February, 1912, were hunting caribou east of Langton Bay. They had been sitting in the house for some time, and no one had been talking, when Ilavinirk all of a sudden remarked to Dr. Anderson that it was a pity they had killed Christ so young. Dr. Anderson made some non - committal answer, and Ilavinirk continued : “Yes, it is a great pity; for the missionary has told us Christ came to all the people of the earth, and He never came to the Eskimo. I suppose that must have been because He visited the other countries first, and had not yet found time to visit the Eskimo before He was killed. ” This shows pretty clearly what Ilavinirk’s idea was of Christ's having come as a messenger not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles also.