Posts Tagged ‘tundra swan’

To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

One crisp afternoon while I strolled to the Post Office I heard a
mellow gurgling drifting down from high above. I passed a young girl
looking up. “Ishi gi!”, she claimed. Looking up I saw miles above a
dozen flocks of cranes in “v” formations. A sure sign of fall. A few
years later, while living in Nome, my parents were visiting late
September. We were up Nome river fishing when a flock of cranes flew low
overhead. Very low. I grabbed my .22 and shot at one about 30 ft up
thinking I could easily pluck it out of the sky and dress it for a few
dinners. I shot once and heard the pellet hit the bird’s wing and
ricocheted off. The bird flew on seemingly un-phased. Cranes are tough

Jack, the mighty hunter of the village, gifted us (or rather, gifted
me, as Maggie would say) a swan. I saw him arriving to the house with
the head and neck of the swan draped over his shoulder while the body
and legs hung down to his ankles. I’m not sure if it was legal for him
(an Eskimo) to kill a Tundra Swan but life in the village keeps one
alert for fresh game, otherwise food sources were (30 years ago)
expensive and spare for most isolated villagers. There’s no question
that Jack was a provider. Over the months he brought us (rather, me)
rabbit, ptarmigan and swan. If I weren’t living with competent
fishermen, I’m sure the fish would have been forthcoming as well.

Since trapping for squirrel, fishing and picking berries I had become
enamored with subsistence living — hunting and gathering. I felt alive
and empowered. So I looked for opportunities to “provide”. A small pack
of weasels lived in the porch of the old house as a chunk of moose meat
was stored there in the oncoming cold weather. I set a couple of
squirrel traps overnight close to the meat. In the morning I had two
trapped weasels which I killed just as I had done with the squirrels —
pulling their hearts. Eventually I had six hides which I tanned. Martin
told me that weasels had their own Eskimo folk tale, which my father
confirmed some time later. Eskimo kids were told that if they came
across a weasel and the kids had been misbehaving, the weasel will jump
up and grab their throats.

I carried the weasel skins for years and have recently applied them
to one of the pieces in THE ENCULTURATED WHITE MAN: If the Indians Had Won body of work.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

weasel in winter coat

Weasel in winter coat. Image taken from http://www.saskschools.ca/%7Egregory/animals/weasel.html

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