The Inuit are Canada’s Ninjas.

12 Dec

I’ve been fascinated by the Inuit for many years now. On the West Coast, we grew up with stories of the Haida, the Salish.  We learned of their cedar clothes and boxes, how they lived in cedar homes and cooked with heated rocks in cedar pots, and how they foraged and hunted.  The city has long since replaced the rainforests of the aboriginal time, but examples of it can be found less than an hour from downtown.  The point is, the first nations people didn’t have the same draw for me, because they were here, and BC is not the hardest place to survive, by any stretch of the imagination.  The arctic, however, is cold, barren and hostile.  In my eyes, it was a huge feat to survive up there. The ingenuity of the northern people amazed me, and their stories ( the real stories, not their myths, which I can talk about later) were legendary to me.

An example is the grandfather who hated the sedentary life that his family had adopted. So he snuck out, made a knife by freezing and shaping his poo, killed a dog and made a dogsled out of the skin and bones, and then harnessed the other dogs to it and vanished into the snow.

Personally the best and smartest thing is how they used to make the runners for their dogsleds.  Before steel and milled wood, dog sleds were made from walrus bone and drift wood. The bottoms of the runners were not guaranteed to be flat.  So the way they made it flat, was with moss and ice and fish. The moss and the fish acted like rebar to strenghten the ice, but also to fill in the gaps of the structure, be it bone or gnarly driftwood.  The ice was applied slowly, layer by layer by spitting water in a mist, and then buffing with a scrap of fur.  The result was a strong, straight runner.  The best part, however, is that that fish would keep all winter, and in the spring, when things were tough, the fish would thaw and they could eat it.  BRILLIANT.

Watch Wade Davis on TED talk about Cultures at the far edge of the world, and the story of the Inuit elder and his poop knife.


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