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May 14, 1879

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Schwatka meets a group of Esquimaux who had never met white people before and were starving, not having been able to kill enough musk ox deer during the winter.





Voices from the Past - The Old Esquimaux's Story

Frederick Schwatka


Important Text:

Chapter VI

Voices from the Past - The Old Eskimaux's Story 

The morning of May 14 1879, began a day which was introduced an unusual situation and ended by becoming one of the most fateful days in our journey. We were continuing our way along the river [Hayes River, named by Schwatka in honor of the president] when we sighted a large herd of reindeer, some two hundred of them. Our sleds were well loaded with meat and so we allowed them to trot by within rifle range without a shot being fired. Singularly curious, they would run a few paces towards us, then halt like a company of cavalry coming into line, gazing at us until one of their more nervous ones would snort and send them off by the flank with measured trot, like well-drilled troopers. 

At two o'clock that afternoon our moment of fate commenced its development. It began with the discovery of a recently upturned block of snow, and soon we came upon an igloo - deserted - but close by were two caches of musk-ox meat and furs. A trail, formed by dragging a musk-ox skin loaded with belongings of these unknown people, led us on. Our natives pronounced this trail as being two days old, and believed that on the morrow we would come upon the trail-makers. 

Bright and early on the morning of May 15 we broke camp, being well on our way for some time when, rounding a sharp bend in Hayes River, we came suddenly in full sight of three igloos, about a mile distant. 

As we approached, a number of the occupants who were standing around fled to their igloos and persistently remained there. According to the custom of the country (as Joe explained it) we armed ourselves, leaving the women and children with the sleds, and marched in line to within about a hundred yards of the igloo. 

Ikqueesik now went forward and commenced shouting at the top of his voice. His words must have reassured them as it had the desired effect of bringing the affrighted occupants out into sight. They formed a line, with bows, arrows and spears or knives and, as we moved up to within a few feet, they began a general stroking of their breasts, calling "Munnik-toomee"(Welcome).

After their fears had somewhat subsided the women and children came peeping out of the igloos and soon afterwards mixed with the throng. Our drivers returned and brought up our sleds and we were soon building igloos alongside, with the help of our new acquaintance. 

They proved to be a band of Ooquesik-Salik Esquimaux, numbered seven or eight men and probably twice as many women. The head man, Ikinnelik-Puhtoorak, an Ookjoolik, was the leader of a once powerful band inhabiting the northern and western shores of the Adelaide Peninsula and adjacent shores of King William land.  Famine and inroads of neighboring bands had reduced the tribe to a handful. Their land was now in the possession of the Netchilluks and Kidnelik Esquimaux. Of the latter they had great fear and had mistaken us for this band when we first appeared.

We were the first white men these natives had ever seen with the exception of the two oldest men in the tribe - and the great importance of this latter fact will soon be shown. Youngsters and adults crowded about us, then staring eyes following every motion that we made. They told us that the river on which we now were travelling would take us two days journey to the northward then, bending directly backwards on its course, would take us two days farther southeast before we would reach Back's River. From the great bend they explained we could reach Back's River in two days by traveling directly westward, and reach it at a point much nearer to Montreal Island, our first objective point. 

In our anticipation of meeting the natives of this unexplored section we hoped to depend upon them for dog food and oil. But now the tables were turned. These natives were so sadly in need of food that, instead of being receivers, we were obliged to give them some of our own. They had had a very severe winter, one old man of the tribe having died about a month before of starvation. They had no oil and their igloos were cold, clammy and cheerless on the extreme. Their food in the summer and early winter is furnished by the numberless shoals of salmon which ascend the smaller river and are speared as they run the gauntlet of the rapids, while the flesh of the musk-ox, which they secure with dogs, bows, and arrows and spears, gives them a precarious substence during the remainder of the year. They were not able to kill enough deer during the summer to supply them with food or clothing. The noise made in crawling up towards them close enough to shoot with bow and arrow (as the twang of the bow travels more rapidly than the arrow) allow the active deer time in jumping out of the way at any distance beyond twenty-five yards.

Topics: (click image to open)

Evidence where harm or nutritional deficiencies occur with diets restricted of animal products. A very general hypothesis that states that eating more plants, whether in famine, or addiction, cause more disease. Metabolic, hormonal, anti-nutrients.
The Inuit lived for as long as 10,000 years in the far north of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland and likely come from Mongolian Bering-Strait travelers. They ate an all-meat diet of seal, whale, caribou, musk ox, fish, birds, and eggs. Their nutritional transition to civilized plant foods spelled their health demise.
Carnivore Diet
The carnivore diet involves eating only animal products such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, marrow, meat broths, organs. There are little to no plants in the diet.
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