More from the “Add-on Eskimo”
A Whale sent
The Arctic Summer faded quickly into autumn.
The temperatures dipped to freezing and by the third week of August the first snow flurries blew in from the sea. It was time for the Fall whale hunting.
Okfagit had not told anyone beyond his family about his commitment to Jesus, but he had taken steps to follow Him. It was scary stepping out of the traditions of his fathers, but from what he knew of Jesus from Psalm 23, he could choose to trust him.
The first change was that Okfagit did not perform the ceremonies to call the whales so he could get one. Instead, he prayed to Jesus, asking Him to provide, to bring the whales to the shore, and to his boat. If the others in the village did not notice his failure to follow tradition, no one said anything to him about it.
Okfagit and his sons prepared the boat, getting the gear ready: harpoons, seal poke floats, plenty of seal skin rope, along with food and water. When the weather was right, they, along with other boats, pushed off from the shore and, raising their sail, left the village behind.
At the tiller, Okfagit spoke to his crew, “I do not want to go too far from shore. I have prayed about what to do and asked Jesus to bring a whale to us. We are going up along the coast rather than out to sea.”
Ayit watched the shoreline pass, the pale green of summer had faded, and the chill winds of Autumn blew towards them from the shore. It was a melancholy time of the year, a passage from the food gathering of the summer towards the time of snow and less activity.
Suddenly the striker called, “Whale ahead!” Ayit turned to see the great beast blow, sending a geyser of spray into the air. It was coming towards them!
Okfagit turned the tiller so they would intersect the Whale’s path. They all waited in suspense, scanning the water. Then the whale again surfaced, just feet from the boat. The striker, already standing in the bow, gave his harpoon a mighty thrust and the contest was on.
The whale continued on its way, showing no sign of distress. Immediately they took the sail down. The striker wound the seal skin rope firmly to the bow and sat down to wait for the whale to surface again. When it did, he put a second harpoon into it. “Look,” said Ayit. “It is pulling us toward the village!” It was true, the whale was not going out to sea, but went exactly parallel to the shoreline.
Okfagit signaled to another boat, who signaled to other boats further out. They all came to him and tied onto his boat, putting more drag on the whale. By the time they were almost to the village, the whale slowed and stopped, floating to the surface.
Ayit’s face shone, “Jesus not only answered our prayers to bring the whale to us, he also had the whale bring us home!” Instead of hours and hours of paddling, the line of boats only had half a mile to go before the whale was at the village.
As they pulled it up as far as they could, everyone was pleased to see that it was a very big whale, over 90 feet. Every foot of a whale weighs about a ton, so there would be plenty of food for everyone.
Since Okfagit was the boat captain, the whale was his, but traditionally he would share certain parts with his crew, and less with the rest of the village.
However, he had decided that, as a follower of Jesus, he should add brotherly kindness to his faith. That meant being more generous, taking less for themselves and giving more to the other villagers.
Because the hunt had been so quick, and the boat crews had not had to work so long and hard to get the whale home, they skipped the traditional three hours of rest before butchering and got right to work.
The whole village gathered at the shore. Women brought food and hot tea, the children played and waited for thin slices of skin and fat.
It was such a large whale that it took them three days to finish harvesting all of it: the skin, the fat, the meat, the inner parts, the baleen (they were happy it was a baleen whale) and the bones, which they left on the beach for the dogs to clean before storing them to be used for boat racks and houses.
In the process, Okfagit gave much more of the whale to other villagers than usual; there was surprise and much talk about that. No one asked him why he did it, but they were thankful. However, Ayit knew why. His father was adding brotherly kindness to his self-control, endurance and godliness.
Picture: Eskimos with captured whale