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Kim — University of Nebraska Press / Page 1 / / The Apache Indians / Ingstad [First Page] [1], (1) Lines: 0 to 31 ——— 0.0pt PgVar ——— Normal Page PgEnds: TEX [1], (1) 1 The Long Migration A trail of dog sleds and men wearing pelts and snowshoes wind their way across the white tundra of northern Canada. It’s slow going. The dogs suffer from hunger and trudge along with their tails hanging low. The twelve Indians and one white man who straggle behind their sleds aren’t that much better off. Glaring sunshine floods down upon the white-covered earth, but that low-hanging, glowing ball on the horizon is a bit of a farce. The air is so bitterly cold that even through the smallest slits in the caribou coats the snow blows in and stings like needle pricks, and misty billows of steam waft around the faces of both man and animal as they breathe into the icy air. It was toward the end of my journey with the “caribou-eaters,” a group of Chipewyan Indians who brave the hard life in the forest and tundra west of the Hudson Bay. For nearly a year we had been following the caribou, creatures that play a vital role in these people’s existence. There are millions of these animals here, but the land is so vast that relying on hunting them day after day can be risky. Sometimes we were lucky and lived high on the hog, other times it was a race against hunger. Midwinter we had to push north right up to the Northwest Passage in hopeful search of the caribou, but no sign of life was discovered. Food had to be found, and quickly. There was nothing else we could do but travel south and try our luck there. So we headed for the forests. We keep looking ahead longing to reach the green, sheltering pine forests that we haven’t seen for quite some time. The caribou must be somewhere down there. At least there will be plenty of wood to build a flaming fire to warm our frozen bodies. That thought in itself impels us and we push the dogs on across the seemingly endless, rolling snowy hills. Kim — University of Nebraska Press / Page 2 / / The Apache Indians / Ingstad 2 The Long Migration [2], (2) Lines: 31 to 41 ——— 0.0pt PgVar ——— Normal Page PgEnds: TEX [2], (2) We come upon a fairly fresh caribou carcass that wolves have chased down. It helps our hungry bunch but it doesn’t last long, and a short time after we’re back in the same situation. Then one day, around noon, we reach a small crest where Chief Tietchan suddenly stops his leading pack of dogs. He flings back his fur hood to see better, seemingly unbothered by the biting wind that stings his face and tangles his long, black hair. He stares off into the distance then points to the south and impassively says, “The forest.” Sure enough, way off in the distance we can see a faint strip of green. The sight of it raises our spirits and we hurry along. By late afternoon we reach the outermost areas of the forest, which are clusters of windblown spruce trees. A large, frozen white lake appears nearby, and close to that we catch sight of something dark – caribou! We hop into our sleds, crack our whips, and shout commands at the dogs, who strain in their harnesses with every last bit of their energy. We race across the frozen water at incredible speed. There appears to be about a couple hundred caribou. Wary of danger, they quickly rise to their feet. A buck jumps in alarm and throws back its magnificent head of antlers, which sets the rest of the flock running, their grayish-brown bodies moving en masse. Our sleds follow after and then scatter. One of them quickly cuts in front of the animals’ path and closes in. An Indian sitting on his knees in the sled raises his rifle and fires two or three shots that shatter the stillness. Two caribou fall to the ground. It is evening now and we have settled down onto a layer of spruce boughs in front of a roaring fire that rises like a pillar between the trees. Skewers of caribou joints, intestines, stomachs, livers, and kidneys lean against the flames. The smell of grilling meat drifts our way and once more our lives are good again...


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