Inuit - Isigarsigak 2
ISIGARSIGAK and his younger brother once set out on a journey northwards, and did not stop till the frost obliged them to establish themselves for the winter before they had reached their goal. Not till the middle of next summer did they arrive at their place of destination, where they found a number of people all friendly and well inclined; and therefore they resolved to pass the next winter with them. Winter went by in the usual way; but when spring came round, some of the people at times would say, "At midsummer-time we shall no doubt again see the dark stripe." This implied the intention of going a trip to Akilinek (the country beyond the ocean); but the strangers clid not understand their meaning. One day a man came up to Isigarsigak saying, "We all of us intend to go a voyage out seawards to Akilinek; with that view thou wouldst do well to gather skins for a double coating to thy boat." He followed this advice; and when all had got their boats new coverings, he noticed that every morning the inhabitants mounted the top of a hill to take a survey of the ocean.
Sometimes he joined them, and then they used to say, "Much as we long to be off, we dare not risk it yet." But at length the rattling noise of the tent-poles woke him one morning, and when he saw the others had almost finished carrying their things down to the boats, he hastened to pull down his tent; and being also ready, the boats started. They stood to sea at once; and when the outer covers got wet and began to slacken their speed, they cut their fastenings and cast them off. Isigarsigak dropped astern a little, and had almost given up hope of seeing land again, when suddenly he heard land-shouts ahead of him. As he listened again, he could make out that they cried, "The broad dark stripe;" and presently he saw it looming out, and when he rose and stood upright he beheld a broad expanse of land. The travellers now broke out into exulting shouts that they had reached the opposite shore without a gale, and on coming close to the land they found it abounding with reindeer. They moored their boats, and at once went off shooting, but Isigarsigak and his brother slew the greatest numher. They decided on staying at this place for a sea- son. Some time after there was heard a cry of "Boats." Isigarsigak went out and saw a great number coming down from the north. These travellers also took up their quarters there; but Isigarsigak did not care to assist them, and remained in his tent. Before long, however, there was a cry at the entrance, "Isigarsigak and his brother are called upon to come out for a singing match" (nith-songs or satirical songs). Although Isigarsigak had no idea of singing, they made themselves smart and went outside. They saw an enormous crowd of people all going up hill, the men in front, the women following. As soon as they were seen there was another shout, "Let the men from East step forward." The brother of Isigarsigak first performed a dance and retired. Isigarsigak himself was now summoned, but as he did not know much about either singing or dancing he proposed to his wife to advance, who was so smart and clever that nobody could match her.
The brother of Isigarsigak being unmarried now took a wife in this place; but as his brothers-in-law came to like him uncommonly well they would not allow him to leave them. The year being far advanced, they all prepared to cross to their own land, giving their boats new covers. Though Isigarsigak had been greatly attached to his brother, and did not like the idea of leaving him, he wished to die in his own country, and therefore made ready to follow his countrymen. At length they started; but a little way off land Isigarsigak said to his people, "It occurs to me that I forgot to divide our healing remedy (viz., amulet for health and longevity). What a pity! we shall have to go back." Accordingly they went back and unpacked the things again. Opening an old box he produced something like a small bit of coal from a fireplace-this being an amulet given to him and his brother in common. He broke it into two pieces, and gave one of them to his brother. The boat was again loaded, and steering right out to sea, he turned round to see the last of his brother, who stood watching them on the beach in his white reindeer jacket. They were never to meet again, so he did not take his eyes off him till he was quite lost to sight.
The boats safely reached their own shore without encountering any storm. Isigarsigak now began seal-hunting with his children, but in time these grew old and died successively. Then he went out in company with his grandchildren, as yet without losing strength himself. It was not till his grandchildren were getting aged that he began to feel a little less handy himself. He was much beloved by his grandchildren, and they often went with him to a craggy reddish cliff, a favourite spot of his, where a number of gulls had built their nests, and the grandchildren's children would call to him, saying, "Here we are at thy favourite cliff; do sing to us." He had a fine voice, and could also imitate the cries of birds, which delighted the urchins beyond everything. This generation also died, and their children became his companions; but his grandchildren's grandchildren had to carry him in a boat, and to treat him like a child. His strong frame had now grown thin and shrunk like that of a baby; he ate almost nothing, and to know whether he still breathed they used to hold a bit of down before his nose. In passing by the bird's-cliff they would say, "Now we are at thy favourite spot; do sing a song:" and listening sharply, they could hear a small feeble sound like the cry of a bird. At length he began to suck his coverlet; and one day when they came to take him out as usual, they observed that the feather before his mouth did not stir; he had breathed his last. Isigarsigak never had his like with regard to old age in this country (Greenland); he got quite as old as Nivnitak. His younger brother may even have outlived him, but he had never been heard of. It is through him that we are related to the people of Akilinek.
Taken from: The Eskimo of Siberia by Waldemar Bogoras;[Leiden & New York, 1913]