Jimmy Koneak’s Stories

I will tell you a story of what I know about the kayak; its ways and uses.

I will tell what I have heard about it even when I have not experienced it. Though I have been able to use the kayak, I have not used the tools for it; but I have used the “egimak” harpoon with an ivory head which separates. I have never used the “Angoviak” harpoon which was used for the actual killing. Also, I haven’t used the drag (Newta) which was made from wood and sealskin and used for walrus hunting. I will also tell about a different kind of harpoon which has three hooks and was used for seal hunting. This was called a “Nuig”.

The skin of a bearded seal was blown up to be used as a float (Avataq) which was used in killing ranger seals. The float was sent out with the head attached to this harpoon, held by a handle that had places on it for the fingers. This wooden handle had an antler or ivory head, attached at the top. This head we attached to the harpoon was called a “Qraquak”. All of these tools were used to kill ranger and ringed seals. They were very useful for killing small or big game, whether a walrus or a whale. The float was thrown out to slow down seal, walrus or whale. It was made very strong with tree bark, and has three or four ropes attached to it.

The tree was bent to make it circular. It then looked like a bowl with seal skin to cover the bottom. To make this extra-strong, the skin was tied along the wood. I have seen this used only once, when a walrus dragged this float and it followed bubbling in the water. The seal skin tape used in harpooning would never snap, since it had been made very strong and durable.

Then the “Angovigak” harpoon was used from the back for the actual killing. That was how it was done, and it never took long to kill game with the “Angovigak” harpoon.

There are also tain-shelters made in the hole of the kayak. I remember this because one was made on my kayak so I learned to handle it. That was how the kayak was equipped.

When the “Avataq” was wet, it was put between two short polos to hang until dry, and kept from falling while the kayak kept going.

A hook was also used in hunting, after the kill. With a walrus, a hook was the only way of getting it. The hook was constructed so that once attached to the animal, it would not come off.

Seal intestines were kept in a kayak at all times in case of rain or rough water. Mittens with wide arms were also kept for use in the rain, as they were better for that purpose than ordinary ones. All these things were very useful in a kayak. I have used these seal intestines, which were called “Aquilitak”. They were made to give hunters shelter from the rain. This was very effective, as the shelter made from intestines was very water-proof. It had a strong odor which would probably bother people these days, but being an Inuk, I didn’t mind the smell. This seems to be the end of my story even though there is more to tell.

I will now tell a story about the boat made from caribou skin. This boat would go everywhere. It was rectangular in shape and the skins were sideways. I remember this boat because I was born in one. I was not born on land. I was born at the mouth of Payne River in this boat. These boats were used to travel all over even if they were just paddle boats. If the weather was good they would travel in one tide, but it would take days if the weather was bad. If there was a mild breeze a sail was set up then the boat would go with the wind. It would not go sideways because this sail was square and put up on a pole which you could take out when you needed. A stick was put across the tip of the pole and attached to sealskin ropes which you pulled in the direction you wanted the boat to turn.

If the boat was going through rapids it was portaged. The dogs were taken ashore to pull the boat along the shore. Long sealskin ropes were used and this made the dogs very small at a far distance. The people in the boat would be paddling from the back and front to keep it from hitting rocks. The sealskin rope which the dogs were using to pull the boat had a float in the middle so that it would not sink. Another float was put on the front of the boat to keep water out while going through rapids.

These trips were made to kill the caribou for clothing, which were parkas and pants. The hides were also used for mattresses. On the trip back, the boats would be packed with caribou hides. There were always two boats together, my uncle Annahatak and my father both had boats. When their sons were able to go out with them, they would go their different ways, to teach them their ways of hunting. That was the way we were taught and I remember everything, but what I remember I can talk about.

They would also go after the caribou which were swimming since they were easier to get. The young caribou and the female were the favorite clothing. The young male was best for a parka. These make me think back and remember of the clothing that I used to wear, which was very warm. I am talking about what I think was most important.

Then there were trips made for getting more hides which would be used for making skins on kayaks. I guess these trips were made to Fort Chimo since they would be gone till the winter. The skins would be used for kayaks and boats. The boat would take about ten skins sideways because it was very long. This boat had very big space and would take big loads. All the meat and hide from caribou was loaded on the boats. If there was no room left they would leave a cache of meat that they would get in the winter. That was how they worked. Nothing was wasted even if it got old, it was appreciated even more.

I will now end this story even though there is a lot more to tell.


(Taqralik, December 1975, page 24)