More from the Add-on Eskimo as he hunts seals with his father.
They sat down on the ice to wait for a seal to pop up for air. One of the brothers got a fishing line out of his pouch. On the end of it was an old rifle shell with sharp wires shaped as hooks protruding from the opening; tied to it was a small red rag.
He went around the end of the ice pile where he could fish without disturbing the hunting. Lowering the line into the water, he jiggled it around a bit, then suddenly jerked it upward. It came out of the water with two small, sardine-like fish stuck on the points. They had been attracted by the dancing red cloth and circled around it to where the boy could catch them on the points. In an hour he’d caught about fifty of these little fish and put them into his pouch.
The Eskimos knew how to be patient. Waiting is important in the arctic, as rushing things can easily result in death in the harsh climate and dangerous conditions. Even the dogs were patient as they lay in their harness awaiting the trip home.
Okfagit was willing to wait all day, if necessary, for a seal to surface, but it was only two hours before the water rippled and a nose poked out followed by the sleek head of a ring seal. It drew a deep breath while Okfagit drew a bead on it and fired. The seal jerked and lay still.
Ayit came running with a float, which his father expertly threw out beyond the seal. Then he carefully pulled it back in on the leather line, hooking the float onto the dead seal so he could bring it to the edge of the ice. Then he took his staff and reached out the end with the hook to snag the seal and pull it up out of the water.
He offered the dead seal some fresh water, as a part of their shamanistic beliefs, an effort to appease the spirit of the animal just killed. This, they believed, would prevent the spirit from becoming angry and bringing disaster upon them. His sons then loaded the seal onto the sled.
The boy with the fish opened his pouch and offered some to his brothers and father. The fish were now frozen solid, but the Eskimos ate them with relish. The other way they liked them was when the fish were “mature”, having sat in a box near the fire for a couple of weeks. That gave them a particular flavor which the Eskimos loved.
Okfagit settled down to watch again and, and in the next three hours he got two more seals. Loading the last one onto the sled, they pulled the sled anchor out of the snow and headed home.
There Ayit’s mother and his two sisters would skin the seals and cut up the meat, which would then be put on a platform outside the house, a kind of natural refrigerator. After scraping the skins and washing the extra fat off, they hung them to dry on the side of the house.
In order to make decorations on their clothes, some skins were put out in the cold to bleach, either on frames or on poles.
They then took the intestines of the seals, washed them out and hung them on a line to dry. These would become raincoats. The intestines would be slit, laid flat and then sewed together to make a sheet, which was then made into a coat. It was tedious and delicate work, but Nisana and the other Eskimo wives were skilled at it from long practice.
The intestines naturally let liquid pass out through their walls but not in, so, as a raincoat they would let sweat and moisture out but prevent any water from passing in, keeping the Eskimo dry. Such a raincoat was light, easy to carry and when in need, it could be eaten!