National Geographic : 1971 Feb
I would make: The Eskimo is incredibly re sourceful. Should his sled break down miles from nowhere, he always manages to repair it with a twist of sinew or old wire. With no mechanical schooling, he does equally well with his highly sophisticated snowmobile. An epic of Eskimo ingenuity came out of Igloolik six years ago. That winter the village learned that a large treaded tractor, still capable of running, had been abandoned at an unused radar site on the DEW line, the distant early warning system operated joint ly by Canada and the United States.* When spring came, the community launched a two man salvage expedition. Hitching their dogs to a sled, the men set forth across the sea ice in search of the tractor, more than a hundred miles away. Finding the snow-covered vehicle at the bottom of a hill, the salvagers discovered that the glass fuel-filter chamber was broken. They carved a wooden one to take its place. Then they found that the small gasoline motor that served as a starter for the tractor's cold diesel engine was out of fuel. Desperate, they gathered all the combustible materials they could find, then built a fire against the big engine, warming it until it thawed enough to be started by hand. Three days later the two men and their tractor made a triumphal entry into Igloolik. Despite their ingenuity, Eskimos recognize their limitations. A whole philosophy of liv ing is summed up in the word "ajornarmat," which carries much of the meaning of our phrase "that's life." This fatalistic view pre pares them to accept their hard existence and even death itself-with equanimity. Three Keys to the Eskimos' Dispersal No one knows when the first of these squat, swarthy men came out of Siberia to cross the Bering Strait and drift silently across the top of North America. But when the Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen traversed this entire region in the 1920's, he discovered that the Eskimo dialect he had learned in Green land was understood along the whole route. The Eskimo's mobility over so vast an area stemmed largely from three things: the dog, the skin boat, or umiak, and the igloo. At least two waves of Eskimos have come from the west to leave their imprint on the eastern Arctic land. The Thule people, from whom today's Eskimos descend, planted their *Howard La Fay wrote of the "DEW Line, Sentry of the Far North," in the July 1958 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. 204 Out of the deep, into the freeze: Heedless of bitter November cold, a Pelly Bay fisherman brings up an Arctic char between the caribou horn tines of his kakivak. He attracted the fish with a hookless lure, then speared it. Frozen within minutes of capture, two char stand tongue-high to a girl guardian (opposite). Ice-slab cache protects the catch from foxes and dogs (below).