The next morning at breakfast Ayit asked his father, “Is there no hope to escape the evil that the spirits bring on us?”
“All we can do is to appease them, to carefully avoid angering them. And we should be careful to not dishonor any older people either because, as I said, after they die, their spirits can come back and take revenge on those who failed to show proper respect.”
“So, there is no way out of this?” Ayit asked, looking sadly at his father, who smiled at his inquisitive son.
“No, this is the world we were born into and we have no other possibility,” Okfagit said, his face becoming sad. Then he brightened, “However, many seasons ago there was a shaman on the island of Sivukuk who made a prophecy. It is said that he would set up poles and sing around them at night.
“In the morning there would be ropes and cloth on them, like on the whaling ships that we see sometimes off the coast. This shaman prophesied that an outsider would come to the island to bring good news. Maybe this will happen and set us free from the tyranny of the spirits.”
Ayit looked hopefully at his father. His eyes now had some light in them at this news.
After breakfast Ayit and his brother hitched the dogs to the sled and set out to the freshwater spring three miles from the village. When they arrived, they stamped the sled’s anchor into the snow and took several seal-skin pokes to the spring.
While Ayit held a poke, his brother dipped water into it with a wooden scoop. When the poke was full, they tied the neck and stood it on the sled. After the six pokes were filled, they lashed them down and headed back home, going slowly, being careful not to let any of the pokes tip over and spill the precious water. This water was for drinking and cooking only, but even so it went quickly.
That night the children again asked their father to tell them a story. He was quiet for a while, sighed and said, “Along with the spirits is the god, ‘Apa.’ He is much more powerful than the spirits, but he is far from us, he does not enter our lives. It is said that he has a helper, his son, who is also powerful, but we cannot know him either. Apa and his son do not protect us from the evil spirits.”
“Why is Apa so distant?” asked one of the girls.
“He doesn’t want to bother with us. We people do many wrong things, so he and his son don’t want to be near us.”
“What happens to us when we die?” one of the sons asked.
“We go back to the earth. We come to an end. Our spirits may roam the earth, but they will have no rest,” replied Okfagit.
“Is there no hope for us?” asked Ayit.
“We are at the mercy of the spirits, then when we die, that is the end. Life is hard and brutal, then we die.”
He paused, thinking, then continued, “As I said to Ayit this morning, there is one possible help for us. A powerful shaman on Sivukuk island made a prophecy many, many seasons ago, long before my grandfather was born. He said that someday men who were not Eskimos would come to the island and bring us good news. Maybe that is our hope.”
Unknown to Okfagit and those in his village, 60 miles to the west on the Island of Sivukuk, developments were taking place that would fulfill this prophecy and powerfully, positively affect them and their way of life.
Picture: relaxing in the inner tent where Okfagit talked with his children