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Hunting muskrat

 


As is the custom, as soon as I was able to paddle in my little canoe without tipping over, I started hunting muskrats to help my father. As is known by many in my village and nearby, my late father Nick O. Nick was an avid hunter, trapper and fisherman practically hunting and fishing every single day except Sunday.

As a growing young man, the only western education my father had, which we call attending school, was from Monday to Thursday afternoon, probably in 1936 - the year Sam Anaruk Sr. opened and taught school here in Nunapitchuk as a government representative/teacher.

I completed my elementary education at age 13, the year I completed the 8th grade. Since my parents opted not to consent to my leaving them for my secondary education at Mt. Edgecumbe High School, that was the end of my western education.

Therefore, I too began hunting, trapping and fishing at age 14. That was the year that my late father and the late Carl T. White went to fall camp at Niugne, where my grandpa “Atsaq” raised my father and his brothers: Nick Chris, Nicholai Berlin, Wassillie O. Berlin, and their sister...Natalia White.

As a single parent, my grandpa Atsaq made all of their clothing using the skins of fish, birds, and fur bearing animals that he caught. My aunt Natalia told me one time that their mother passed on when she was two or three years of age.

By the time my late father came back from fall camp, a day before Thanksgiving Day, I had caught fifteen mink, and he had 4 mink. When my mother told him I got 15 mink so far, my father did not say anything to me, but I will always remember the big smile he gave me.

Getting back to muskrat hunting in my canoe… My first camping trip, hunting muskrat, I went with one of my cousins to the area where Atmautluak is today. As we were making a short cut over the tundra with our canoes in a little flat sled made for pulling our canoes over the tundra, I got my waterproof fish-skin “ivruciqs” wet.

As we slept at Nunalraq, where the late James Tikiun had a sod house for camping, I placed my mukluks on the ground to dry. Unfortunately, the sun shrunk them, and I could not put them on after that. These were waterproof chum salmon skin “ivrucik”.

I had to use my winter kameksiik from that day on. In the two days I wore them, I did not get them wet.

I remember how she made them. She would let us boys pee in a bucket until it was almost full. Then she would soak the skins for a number of days. After a number of days, she would dry them and start sewing them into “ivrucik”.

As far as my secondary education, my parents finally consented to my leaving them to Mt. Edgecumbe in 1958 where I attended four years and graduated in 1962.

 

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