"Si khin ah rook rook"
Surviving the Cold
The Ipani Eskimo determined the months by the rising of the new moon. Each new moon has a name that explains something important happening at that time.
January, in the calendar of the Ipani Eskimo, is called "Si khin ah rook rook," which means, "The sun is beginning to rise higher and higher after it has been really low in the last new moon before this one." The Ipani Eskimo could realize that the sun is rising higher every day and it is getting brighter, and the days are getting longer. In different parts of the country people have a different name for it, but the name still tells of an important happening in that new moon.
The new moon "Si khin ah rook rook" is a cold month because the sun is so low. There is not much heat from the sun to warm up the cold air.
The Ipani Eskimo had no way to determine the temperature, but he could tell how cold it was. If he had been out hunting and someone asked him when he came in, "How cold is it today?" he would answer: "I can hear my breath freezing in the cold air like something sizzling. It must then be 50 to 60 below zero when you can hear your breath freezing."
But it can be even colder. When a person is out camping where there are lots of green trees and where there are rocks out in the open, he can hear the trees cracking because of the cold air. When he goes out from the tent to fill up his lantern with kerosene, it would not flow or even drip because it is frozen like jelly. It must then be down to 70 degrees below zero. These things can really happen when it gets so cold in the northwestern part of Alaska. It is hard to believe, but it is true.
Because the new moon "Si khin ah rook rook" is one of the coldest months in the winter, a person has to wear nice fur clothing to stand it. But the Ipani Eskimos were used to it. They were always ready to go out to do their chores in spite of the cold weather.
The Ipani Eskimos gave good advice to their children and their neighbors: "Never get caught out in the barren country when it is cold and when it starts to get stormy. Try to protect yourself and try to get to a place where there is brush, and stay there until you are sure that you can make it home. Take no chances. Never stop at a place where there is a snow bank which might get so big that you get trapped in it." Sometimes carelessness ends up in unbearable suffering. It is best to be careful when lost out in the cold.
A person should dig a hole in the snow big enough to be comfortable and try to be there before he gets too cold. He should also tie a handkerchief or any kind of a cloth over his month and nose and then start breathing warm air, and in that way protect himself from getting too cold and chilled from the cold air. The Ipani Eskimo used a tanned rabbit skin over his month and chin to protect himself from getting frostbitten.
Ipani Eskimo stories are often told to the younger generation so they might know what to do in case of an emergency. For example, when the Ipani Eskimo was out in the cold weather with clothing that was not warm enough, and if he was caught in a storm out in barren country and was lost, there was always no chance for him to survive. It has been said from generation to generation that when a person starts to get frozen and is beginning to get unconscious, he feels that he is putting on a nice new thick rabbit parka, and is starting to get warm. But that is really the end of him. He is freezing to death.
During these cold winter months it is always good to remember the advice of the old folks.
The climate of this new moon is not always cold, because sometimes when it is snowing without a strong wind the temperature drops only to zero and when there is an east wind the climate is usually moderate. But the Ipani Eskimo always watched for the changing signs of the wind and the movement of the clouds because it was the only barometer he could read to determine which would happen in the days to come. He also watched the sun and the stars to know how it would be the day after.
During "Si khin ah rook rook" the fur-bearing animals are really prime. The Ipani Eskimo wanted to catch mink, fox, lynx, wolverine, wolf, and marten because the furs of these animals are then long and fluffy.
To catch a wolverine a person would put out a small frame for the animal to jump in with his front legs, and there would be a cross piece high enough for the animal to get under and to crawl in to pull on the bait. The bait would be tied to the end of a stick so it would not be pulled away easily. There would be another cross piece holding heavy timber, as well as a small stick approximately six to eight inches long set on top of the bait stick. When the wolverine starts to pull on the bait by having his front feet in the frame and then knocks down the little stick that holds the weight up, he is caught between the two cross pieces with a heavy weight on top.
The ermine, squirrels, and other small animals were caught with a trap like the one used for wolverine.
For lynx, the Ipani Eskimo used snares set under the branches of a tall green tree. The small bait was hung close to the trunk of this tree, and then dry branches were put in the ground near this bait so the lynx could not pull from the side. To get the bait the lynx put his head through the snare, pulled on the bait, and then was caught. The loop was tied so the lynx could not run back after the ring was pulled tight. The lynx was choked to death.
Mink and land otter were caught in a wooden pen set in the water, but there was usually a small hole for the animal to get in. The pen could be made out of straight willows or from the trunk of a tree split up and then whittled down with a knife. But it must be set in the water so the animal could be drowned when it got in.
The Ipani Eskimos had a long winter ahead, but they were content as long as some terrible sickness did not make an unbearable burden for the village.
"Koo rhu Auk toek Vik"
Surviving in Snowstorms
The new moon in February is called "Koo rhu Auk toek vik," which means, "The sun is high enough so the snow is being melted by the sun and the water is now dripping from the tree branches and from the high river banks, and then it is frozen into icicles towards evening." The Ipani Eskimo is still expecting cold spells in the second month as the sun is still not warm enough to thaw out the cold air of the winter. But the days are getting longer, the sun will be warmer, and the chance of a good day's hunt for any kind of animals is a pleasant hope for the Eskimo.
The first and the second new moon go together, as they both have good days and bad days with big snowstorms. The temperature goes up to zero when there is a warm east wind, but the temperature also goes down to 65 or 70 degrees below zero in cold spells. Even then the Ipani Eskimo lives out the cold joyfully when his living conditions are without much trouble.
The Ipani Eskimo is always on the watch for the changing signs of the weather by the movement of clouds and the appearance of the sun. He always expects a big snowstorm to come again. There is no way around it.
The Ipani Eskimo is always anxious to be out snowshoeing to hunt when the weather is good, but sometimes when he is away, the winds start to blow all of a sudden and the fresh fallen snow starts to fly. He does not have a compass to guide him home, so he will try to follow the rules that were taught to him by his parents. First he will check out the direction he should walk home. He chooses one of the stars as his guide, but if the stars are covered , he will be guided by the wind. He will either crosscut the wind, go head wind, or go back wind. But when the wind starts to change from one direction to another, it will not be a true course to follow. Then he must go snowdrifts. He will either crosscut these snowdrifts or follow them straight. He will always take the right course if he follows on as he has started until he can determine the place where he is.
But he always remembers not to take any chances when he knows that he is lost. He must stop at a safe place to wait for the weather to clear up.
The Ipani Eskimo is always anxious to have fresh meat when he can get it. It may be a fresh jack rabbit or it may be a ptarmigan, but anything is good that he can catch. If at any time during the winter when one of the members of the family gets sick, even a fresh fish broth is good. Someone in the family will go to try out a special fishing place. At the mouth of a slough or creek is where pickerel and mudshark can be hooked at any time of the year.
When he does not use a hook, the Ipani Eskimo uses a short piece of fish-tail end for bait for the mudshark to swallow. A sharpened stick put inside this piece of fish is tied up with a braided sinew to the end of a stick. When the fish comes to swallow the bait, he is caught because the sharpened piece of stick gets stuck in his throat.
There was no medicine of any kind for a sick person, so the only hope was to have a medicine man help him get well. There were usually all kinds of superstitious directions a family must observe while the medicine man works on the sick person through an evil spirit. If the medicine man rules that there will be no skin sewing in this family home, or no twisting or braiding of sinew to sew with, the family must observe the ruling, or else the evil spirit of this medicine man will get mad because of the disobedience of the family members and make the sick person die for it.
Superstition during the older days was really a threat, but it was the only hope for a sick person. So when the old-time medicine man worked on a sick person, the evil spirit working through man showed its power, and whatever the man set up to be followed had to be followed.
One of the worst superstitions was followed when a woman was pregnant and the time for the baby delivery was near. It was strictly prohibited that women have baby delivery in the family home, because a terrible suffering and even death would come upon members of the family. So the husband would have to build a small snow house or a sod house for his wife to live in alone until the baby was born.
There would be some food and water in it, and she would have a seal oil lamp for light and heat. The mother or husband would be outside the hut listening and talking to the suffering lady but also giving her advice on what to do. But no help must be given during the time of her delivery. The lady was glad to have a baby born to her, but she must be out from this hut and be moved to another small hut where she will stay for another two days, and only when this time is over can she be home again with the family.
Fear of the evil spirit was what led people in those days to great hardships. But even though the Ipani Eskimos had to go through hardships, they sure had willpower to face them.
When food became scarce the longer days gave relief because there would be more ways of trying to provide for their living.
During the fall the Ipani Eskimo hunter back in the hills would spot some signs of bear getting into their holes to hibernate. He would mark some of the trees so he could find the place when he needed the bear meat and fat. But February was usually still too early, so he would wait another month to go back to kill the bear.
Those short on food would more often catch small black fish. First a basket was made out of a trunk of a tree split up and tapered up to narrow pieces of long sticks tied together with rawhide. There was an opening at the top for the fish to go through. The basket was set where little black fish came up to breathe. There were so many of them in the hole that there was no ice all winter long, so when a trap was set, the fish were caught a hundred pounds at a time.
"Khil ghich Tut Kat"
The Bear Hunt
The third new moon called "Khil ghich Tut Kat" is the month of March. It means, "The summer hawk has come."
This is usually the first hawk that comes in the spring. It looks more like an eagle but it is small. It is the sign that summer is not too far in the future and that winter months will soon be gone. Daylight over the horizon will soon begin, and there will be no more sign of darkness of night within another month.
This third new moon has long warm days, and the sun is way up high during mid-day. It is the start of having sunburn on the face. But still the Ipani Eskimo expects strong snowstorms and cold evenings when the wind is from the north. There is no more cracking of the trees and no more sizzling sound from the freezing of the breath.
It is now time for the Ipani Eskimo to go out to the hills to kill the bear. Bear meat is now scarce and the fat is gone. He calls some of his neighbors to help him make the kill.
This is the happiest time of the year for the people, because they will have fresh bear meat when the hunters come back.
Before they start, they fix their spear, which is a foreleg bone of the bear. It is tied securely with strong rawhide to a birch pole about 6 to 7 feet long. A jade axe is also sharpened.
Early the next morning the men start out with a team of five or six big huskies. When they get to a place they try to find the front opening of the den. When they find it, two strong pieces of timber are sharpened to a point and then set up in an X shape at the front of the den to lock the bear in. Next they find the opening on top of the den with only a thick moss cover. When that is found they open it up to see how many bear are inside.
One man watches for a bear to peek through the hole so he can hit the bear on the head with his jade axe, and if the bear does not show up he takes a stick to use as a pointer at the bear's heart. When the bear's heart is found with this stick the hunter takes his spear, follows the pointer on down with his spear, and then hits the bear in the heart to kill it. Before they open the front, they watch carefully to see if there is another bear. When there is no sign they open the door and pull out the bear.
What a nice big bear! They skin it there and cut it up. They dare not forget to pull out the worm under his tongue. The Ipani Eskimos say that this worm under the bear's tongue is the maddener: it gets the bear to fight against anything.
The hunters take the bear home, and the families of these hunters and their neighbors are glad to see nice fat bear meat.
The Ipani Eskimo have their nice bear meat when they want it because they mark the places where the bears hibernate. During the fall months just before freeze-up and before the ground is covered with snow, the men walk up to the hills to mark these places. They know certain places where the bears hide themselves for the winter. Sometimes there are two or three in one hole.
They are never afraid to hunt any kind of bear, whether it be brown, black, or polar bear. They believe that the bear cannot attack a human inside its cave. This idea has been tested many times by the old-time hunters.
The story is told about a man traveling by dog team following a creek. All of a sudden the dogs scent something strange and then just run for it. In a sharp turn the first several dogs get to the bear hole, which has been opened not too long ago with the bear still inside. These two leaders go right in and get caught by the bear. The man had to cut their tow line, leave them with the bear, and then start away with the rest of his team. Because the leaders did not come home, they were probably killed by the bear.
During the last part of third new moon, the Ipani Eskimo goes out to hook sheefish through the ice. The ice is usually four feet thick at that time, but the men can cut through with a bone-pointed tool, and when the fishermen find a big school of fish they can pull them up with their bonehooks by the sled-load.
Now the family can have a warm or hot drink of sheefish broth. No tea or coffee at that time!
The sun is now beginning to thaw out the snow, and it is easier to go out with a dog team to hunt around the tundra. The Ipani Eskimo is always anxious to find something to eat because there might be some neighbor going hungry. "Help one another" is the motto of the Ipani Eskimo.
"Ting mat Tut Kat"
Getting Ready for Summer
New Life in Springtime
The fourth new moon April is called "Ting mat Tut Kat," meaning, "The geese have come, and different species of water fowls are also beginning to come." It is now springtime for the Ipani Eskimo. The daylight lasts the whole day now, and there are hopes that days will be easier with longer and warmer days.
Now the ptarmigan begins to show its new parka for the summer months, and they begin to pull out the pussy willows to eat. They are not cold any more and happy to eat soft warm food. There is now a good chance for the Ipani Eskimo to catch them in big bunches with a net.
The story is told how the ptarmigan are caught with a net. A man would take his sled and fill it with green willows cut long enough to be used for a net and short willows cut to be used as feed for the birds. He pulls the sled to a lake where the ptarmigan have been flying by. In the morning the ptarmigan usually fly around looking for a good place to feed after the willows have been thawed out by the sun. The man stands up the long green willows in a line on a snowbank out in the open so the birds can land on them to feed. The bottoms of the willows are open. The net is hung up with weights on top. The small willows are then set up on the side where the birds will have a good feed.
The trick the hunter uses is simple. First he hides and watches for the birds to come. He has with him a wing of the bird hawk tied up to a willow stretched out so the ptarmigan can see it when he lifts it out from his hiding place. He has a peek hole where he can watch the birds if they land there. He waits for a good chance to scare them with this bird hawk wing.
Finally a flock of birds, say twenty-five or thirty, land there. For a while they watch the area where they land, but they do not see anybody around so they start to feed. At first they feed on the big willows and then they jump down to feed on the shorter willows. The hunter watches through a peek hole. Finally when they bunch up close to him he pushes out with the wing high and makes a motion as if a bird hawk were landing on them. The ptarmigan get scared and fly under the tall willows to hide away. Then the weight of the net drops down, the birds re covered, they tangle up their wings in the net, and they are caught.
What nice fresh ptarmigan for the family!
The new moon "Ting mat Tut Kat," is really a good month for the Ipani Eskimo because the darkness of night does not cover the sky anymore. During the night the light is only dim: daylight is on the horizon and then the sun is up again.
It is also time for the Ipani Eskimos to set camp at a place where they can go fishing in the summer months. The sun is now warm enough for them to move out from their sod houses.
They now cut willows or gather driftwood for the frame of a hut. People with enough caribou skins use them for their tents during the summer months any place they go. Other families have to use moss and grass houses during the summer months. When the frame is set up and tied securely together, the moss is put on to cover it and the grass is put on top and covered with sod to keep the water from dripping in through the roof when it rains.
This is now a good time to go out to hunt for caribou or bear. The caribou have fawns at this time. Fawn skins are used for children's clothing.
When there is an early spring, the people usually start getting muskrats during the last part of the month.
The Ipani men use bows and arrows and spears to hunt with when they start going around in their kayaks (canoes). It is said that they never miss a shot with bow and arrow when they hunt muskrat even though they may catch forty or fifty a night. Hunters are expert archers because the bow and arrow are part of their life line.
The best spring feed for the Ipani Eskimo is a first-caught muskrat through the ice hole. It is nice and fat.
When the hunter is home with a bunch of muskrats, the lady of the house skins them with her ulu (cutting knife). Then her husband trims three or four green willows to be used for roasting the meat. The lady cuts the belly and pulls out the guts, but she puts the fat back inside and the tail in also. She closes the belly with a stick, and then pushes a trimmed piece of willow through inside from the end to end with the head side up.
She cooks the muskrat by standing it by the campfire at a moderate heat. 0 boy, that muskrat is good eating for the family!
Families not very well prepared in their winter food supply are happy to see the fish jumping and the ducks swimming and the birds singing their wonderful songs of the spring. The fish can be caught with bone hooks and game animals are now roaming around for the hunters to catch. Everything caught for food is saved during those days.
During this month the ravens lay their eggs on the edge of the lakes and rivers on top of the tall willows or alder. They are the first to lay eggs.
From generation to generation children and younger men are advised not to bother the nests of these birds; otherwise a cold north wind would come. Lots of times people have tested to see if this advice is good, and many times it was. So it is better to leave these nests alone.
The winter cold spells are over, but now there will be a hot sun of the summer months that people must endure. The moss huts covered with sod will be cool and comfortable to live in, but for doing whatever needs to be done the people will have to sweat it out.
"Si Qucik Vik"
Fishing with a Dip Net
The fifth new moon, the month of May, is called "Si Qucik Vik," which means, "The ice has gone out." It does not usually open the river right to the mouth, but the ice does move out from the river farther up where the current is stronger and where the sand bars are more shallow.
The geese and ducks are everywhere now. The summer has come again. The birds are singing and chirping during the early morning hours. The birds are glad to be back where they lived a year ago. They are also glad to see the people they left. The ptarmigan and seagulls will soon be laying their eggs. The people are always anxious to find some eggs because there were no eggs all winter.
There are certain ways the Ipani Eskimos cook the eggs when they find them. When a woman is done cooking fish in a pot, the eggs are put in to boil so the family can eat them while they are eating the fish.
In the olden days the pot was made out of wood, so it could not be put on the fire. First the pot was filled with a cold water. Then three or four rocks were put in the campfire to get red hot. When the rocks were hot, a lady took wooden tongs and put a rock into the pot of water.
The first rock got the water hot. When the lady put the fish and another rock in, the water would start to boil. When they wanted the fish to be boiled longer they put one more rock in. The fish were taken out with a wooden spoon and put on a big wooden plate. Then the eggs were put in to cook. Those first fresh eggs sure tasted good!
The fifth New Moon "Si Qucik Vik" is a real busy month with lots of excitement. The Ipani man is always out hunting for muskrats and catching lots of them when the rivers and lakes are open and he can go out hunting with his kayak.
Right after break-up the water usually rises over the riverbanks and the edge of the lakes and covers up the muskrat houses. That is the best time to hunt because the muskrats are using grass nests on top of floating logs or on top of the willows.
The muskrats start swimming around from one place to the other around 2:00 p.m. and they continue moving around until the next morning when they are tired and ready to rest for the day. This is the time the Ipani Eskimo hunts night and day to catch them, but he usually quits when the pelts are not too good anymore. During their mating time, the muskrats fight each other a lot. They cut each other up. During the hunting season men can catch 600 to 1,000 and more. Every one of them is caught with a bow and arrow or with a spear.
When the muskrat season is over, fishing begins. While the river water is still high because of spring floods, the family waits for the fish to come up river. They prepare a dip net made out of sinew braided into twine and then knitted into a net. The families without sinew use braided willow bark for their nets. It is just as good as any other type.
The fish start to show up in big bunches coming up close by the riverbank, because the current all along the river is strong and the water is still muddy because of the current. Mr. Ipani Man is ready with his dip net, and the rest of the family is waiting for the fish to be dipped out of the water. When the fish start to run, he puts his net close to the edge and then makes a shoveling action to catch the fish. There is a good haul of about thirty or forty fish. He continues to shovel out the fish all day. Now there is lots of work for the lady and the kids.
The smaller fish are scaled, the guts are taken out, they are strung with a nice long piece of green willow, and finally they are hung on long poles to be dried. When they are dry, the backbone is taken out and then dried separately the back part with the skin on. They are all strung together with eight fish on a string.
When they are nice and dry, they are put away into the cache for the winter. Fishing in this manner continues about one week. It is really a hard work for the family, but they enjoy working with fish.
At this time there is one superstition which the people observe from generation to generation. It is a strict law set by the Ipani medicine men because of the evil spirit that wants to rule the world. It is not to pull the green growing grass while the people are fishing. This law is very carefully observed because the penalty for disobedience is death. Another strict law is not to scrape off any hide from any kind of animal skin. The penalty is also death.
People have to be careful while they are fishing during the springtime.
Rhubarb is picked, cooked, and put away. The cooking is the same as for the fish, muskrats, and ducks, by using red hot rocks in a wooden pot. Other ways of cooking meals is by roasting fish, meat, and birds by a campfire, using a wooden stick to turn them in moderate heat. Boy, O boy, anybody should try this campfire cooked meat or fish! Once you try it, you want more.
To have a good duck roast, you have to pull out the feathers, take the guts out, and close up the opening to roast it whole. The juice and flavor are in the bird when it is roasted in moderate heat.
"Ig nyi Vik"
Attacking a Bear
The sixth new moon June is called "Ig nyi Vik," meaning, "The geese and ducks and other birds are now laying their eggs." It is now time for the Ipani Eskimos to walk around the tundra close to the lakes to find their first fresh goose and duck eggs.
There has been no way for them to keep their eggs for the winter use. Whenever they have eggs, they just have to eat them.
A long time ago there were two Ipani men who knew where the seagulls, ducks, and geese lay their eggs. It was in a good-size lake where there were two islands side by side in the middle of the lake.
The men planned to walk to this lake, which was quite far from their camp, to go out to these islands by wading across. The ice had already melted but the water was still cold.
The men started out with sacks on their backs to put eggs in. When they got there, they waded in. The water was really cold and went up to their shoulders, but they finally got across. They dried themselves and then started their search.
The geese and ducks started to fly. They now would find some eggs. They walked around, went across to the other island, and gathered so many that they were almost unable to take them all.
To put eggs in a picksack, moss is used to protect the eggs. They filled up their sacks and went back across to their clothing.
They decided to have some eggs before they started for home so they built a fire with flint and got ready for cooking. First, they got real wet moss, put some eggs on top, put more wet moss on top of the eggs, and set the fire on top. The moss started steaming when the fire burned on top. They put the fire out when the eggs were done, dipped the eggs in the lake to cool off, and then peeled them.
Then they took a good bunch of fresh eggs home for the family.
Another way the eggs are cooked is very skillful. First, a green willow is cut bigger than an egg. The bark is hammered a little and then the willow stem is pulled out, leaving the bark open in the center. The eggs are put inside, and the ends closed up so the steam cannot seep out. This bark with eggs in it is then hung over the campfire to cook. When the eggs are cooked, they are put into cold water so the shells can be peeled.
The climate is now getting really warm. It is time to be hunting. Families that do not have skin boats stay home. They will be eating fish and ducks, while others with boats can go down to "Kih kik tok roek" (Kotzebue) for seal and beluga hunting.
Families with skin boats get ready when Selawik Lake ice melts on the edge at the east side. Three or four families with other men as their helpers say goodbye to their neighbors.
There is still thick ice on the lake. It is approximately twenty miles wide and twenty-five miles long. It takes about three weeks for the ice along the river to melt away. But the boats move on as far as they can go, but when they reach ice the families just stop to camp until they can start out again.
It doesn't matter whether it is day or night, because in June it is light twenty-four hours of the day. The Ipani Eskimos are happy to see the midnight sun this month.
The better the weather is the sooner the skin boats get to their destination. They go across to Sheshalek, where here are lots of people from Kotzebue and Noatak camping together ready for their big hunt for seal and beluga.
When the weather is good on the sea the men go out for a seal hunt. The hunters use spears with rope attached. Whenever they have a good chance they can always catch the seal. The men along the coastline have ways to make the seal go to sleep. They use seal claws tied on a stick, making a noise by scratching the ice with the claws, and at the same time making a small noise like a seal. When a seal is in a deep sleep the men can easily get close to kill the seal.
When the seal hunting season is good, there will be enough seal pokes for oil.
Meanwhile, families at home will be at their fish camps working hard to store away as much fish as they can for winter. They also pick greens, such as rhubarb, sourdox leaves, and willow greens, which they store in oil for winter use. Berries ripen during the middle part of the month, and women will pick some to eat as they are still not really ripe enough to be stored away. By the next new moon they will be fully ripe.
During the summer the Ipani Eskimos eat fresh ducks and geese. There are no restrictions. They are free to use them whenever they catch them. They use only bows and arrows and spears and snares. Nothing is wasted.
If bear shows up, the Ipani Eskimo is always ready to try his luck as fresh bear meat is always good.
He goes out with his spear or with bow and arrow. The spear point is made out of the bone of a bear's forearm. It is sharpened up and tied securely with rawhide to a strong birch pole. He sneaks up to the bear to get about twenty feet away, and then he stands up to attack. The bear gets excited and shows that he too is ready to attack. The hunter is really glad that the bear does not run away. He is ready with his spear. The bear attacks by trying to get on top of the man to claw him, but the hunter jumps aside and then spears the bear in the side, pulling the spear out again. The bear once more attacks and the man again spears until the bear gets weak and dies. The Ipani Eskimo always jumps to the right side of the bear because the bear uses his left forearm for anything he wants to catch.
With bow and arrow strong enough to go through the tough bear hide, the hunter must sneak very close to be sure not to miss the bear's heart. The arrow head is sharpened jade or ivory tapered narrow and sharp.
The Ipani Eskimo also uses a strong rawhide snare made from a big seal (ugruk) to catch bear. A snare is set along the path where bear go along the creek to catch salmon. The hunter ties the rawhide to a strong tree and sets the snare so the bear's head goes through and gets caught. The loop has a locking knot so the bear suffocates when the knot gets tight.
The Ipani Eskimos are always anxious to have bear meat and oil.
Those down to Kotzebue now have a good chance to hunt beluga and seals. They have a certain kind of spear for each animal they hunt whether on land or sea. To catch the beluga, they go out in their sealskin kayaks. When the belugas come in to a shallow place to eat fish or to have their young belugas, the men waiting for them line up on the outside and then slowly follow the belugas going in.
Fifteen to twenty kayaks make the drive. The men throw their spears every once in a while to scare the belugas and to keep them from coming back. They slowly follow and carefully watch them going in to some shallow place. The captain of the big drive is very attentively listened to by the other men. They do not aim for the kill until he gives the word. Each hunter has a spear with a sharp knife-like jade point. The strong birch handle is light enough to be handled easily from the kayak. When the belugas are in a shallow place the hunter gets ready by putting a second spear right across his month so he can get hold of it easily when he needs it.
When he hits a big white beluga, he follows him until he comes up to take a breath. Then the hunter in the kayak takes hold of his spear and pokes it through the beluga hide right into the chest and then pulls it out. The bleeding beluga does not stay down too long. When he comes up again, once more the man pokes with his spear, making short motions to push it in and pull it out. When the beluga is dead, a spear is attached with a small float made out of the urinal bladder of a seal. The spear has the mark of the owner.
To kill a twelve to fourteen foot beluga from a kayak is dangerous, but the Ipani hunter is skilled in the use of his kayak. Sometimes when the hunter is hit by the big flippers of the mammal, he tips over, but he gets out to follow his kill by wading through the shallow water. When the belugas are driven into a shallow place about two feet deep sometimes every hunter can catch two or three. The record catch for one man is six belugas.
The Ipani Eskimo also catches seals by chasing them in a shallow place with his spear.
The beluga and seal oil is needed very much during the winter months everywhere, so even though the families may catch more than they need, it can always be traded for something they need from other places. To store away the oil and meat of these sea mammals, they use seal pokes. The Ipani woman knows how to make them.
She starts cutting the seal from the mouth and then, working down from there, she takes the oil and meat off. Next she blows it up with air so it looks like a big balloon. She ties it up tight, puts seal blood or ashes from the fire on top to toughen the poke, and then lets it dry. When it is dry it is ready to use.
The family cuts the top hide of the beluga into strips and then cuts these strips into small pieces to dry. When they are partly dry, the Ipani woman cooks them. These cooked pieces are put into a poke of oil and stored for winter. The meat is either dried or cooked and put into pokes. Each family has from fifteen to twenty pokes of oil, each weighing an average of 120 pounds.
The Ipani Eskimo can work as long as he wants because there is no darkness in June. This is the time of the midnight sun. The hunters who stay in the interior have lots of seal oil because they have traded their furs caught during the winter. The people help each other.