More from the Add-on Eskimo
Within two years a much bigger change would come into their lives. In 1912 Okfagit decided that he would move his family to the island of Sivukuk.
The reindeer herders now lived in the new village of Savoonga, as it was nearer the herd than the village of Sivukuk. Okfagit knew the camp from his times of hunting there and liked the location, it being halfway down the island. Along with plenty of game, it had a small bay with a sandy beach and several of those living there were Christians.
Okfagit’s six children and their families doubled the size of the village when they arrived in the spring after the whaling season. Two of Okfagit’s sons had their own boats now, so they only had to make three trips from Eastern Russia together to bring all they needed, including their dogs and sleds.
They immediately set about building three houses. First, they dug into the tundra as far as they could, making the floor of the house below ground level thereby providing some insulation. If they couldn’t make it deep enough, they would build fires over the frozen parts melting them enough to dig further down.
Then they used whale ribs and driftwood to build a framework which rested on a central pole. The sides of the house were made with driftwood and the roof from walrus skins. Inside, of course, were tents for living space. Since two families would be living in each house, each had their own inner tent.
Okfagit, as the eldest man in the village and a respected hunter, became the village leader and also functioned as pastor, gathering the families in his house for church on Sundays. He and Ayit shared the teaching.
In winter they would sometimes go 100 miles by dogsled up through the mountains to the village of Sivukuk to spend time there with the other Christians. They always had a service on such visits, even if it weren’t Sunday. Time move on and Okfagit and his family moved onward and upward in their faith.
Picture: An Eskimo family the size of Okfagit’s in front of their house.