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by [?]

The brief summer of Northern Labrador had passed, and the Eskimos around the Hudson’s Bay Post at Katatallik were busy preparing for the approaching winter. The season previous, according to the accurate notes of the Moravians, kept for over a hundred years, had been the worst on record; and now again, as the long, cold, icy grip of winter drew near, the prospect of supplies was menacingly poor. So the Innuits, that cheerful and resourceful little race of the North who wrest their living from so reluctant an environment, were putting forth all their energies in a “preparedness” from whose example many a civilized community might well have profited.

Their chief Kaiachououk, of upright character, and the courage born of simplicity, was a familiar figure at the Hudson’s Bay Post where my friend Barlow was facteur for so many years. His acquaintance with the chieftain dated from an afternoon many years before, when he had first seen him, steering his large oomiavik, or flat-bottomed boat, up to the station, while his four lusty wives cheerily worked at the sweeps with his eldest son–an almost regal procession. It was on that same evening that he had told the facteur, after watching Mrs. Barlow prepare the evening meal, “Ananaudlualakuk” (“She is much too good for you”), and the frankness of his speech, far from seeming to disparage his host, endeared the speaker all the more to that hospitable and discerning person.

Kaiachououk possessed qualities which evoked the respect and admiration of all with whom he came in contact. Very noticeable among these was his affection for his family. To this day on the coast there is a story told of him and his youngest wife. He had been camping on their outside walrus-hunting station, and as was customary, he was sometimes away two or three days at a time, having to take refuge on one of the off-lying islands, if bad weather or the fickleness of fortune involved longer distances to travel than he was able to accomplish in a short winter’s day. It was on his return from one of these temporary absences that he was greeted with the news that his youngest wife, Kajue, was very ill. One might have supposed that having so generous a complement of that nature, the news would not have afflicted him in the same degree as one less gifted. But exactly the reverse proved to be the case. Kaiachououk was completely prostrated; and when the girl died two days later, having failed to make any rally in spite of all her husband’s generous presents to Angelok, he literally went out of his mind.

The Eskimo custom, still observed in the North, is to lay out the dead in all their clothing, but with no other covering, on the rocky summit of some projecting headland. The body thus placed on the surface of the rocks is walled in with tall, flat stones standing on end, long, narrow slits being left between them, so that air and light may freely circulate, and the spirit of the departed may come and go at will and keep watch on passing animals, whose spirits must serve the person in the spirit land just as, when embodied, they paid tribute to the needs and prowess of the dead. The top of the grave is also covered with large, flat slabs; and in a small separate cache of similar construction are stored all the personal belongings likely to be of use. The spirits of these latter are set free, either by having holes bored in them or some part of them broken or removed, so that thus being rendered useless to the living, they suffer what in the Eskimo mind corresponds to the death of inanimate objects.

Kaiachououk was so convinced of the reality of the spirit world, and so heart-broken at his utter inability to bring back to life the one he had loved so well, that now nothing would satisfy his mind but that in order to continue the communion which had been so sweet to him on earth, he should be treated exactly as his lost wife, and be immediately buried alongside her on some point of vantage.