We call the Ipani the "long-time ago" Eskimos, or those who lived in the traditional way before the white man came. There are only a few now living in Northwest Alaska who would call themselves Ipani Eskimos.
This book describes the life of the Ipani Eskimos month by month from January to December. It tells how they supported their families by hunting and fishing. It tells of hardship from starvation, sickness, and superstition.
The information comes from old people now living who are children of the Ipani Eskimo. I have written it down that the living conditions of Eskimos in the olden days be better understood.
For those who are curious about me, I add the following sketch.
I was the second son of Ipani parents whose ways had already changed in the days of my childhood.
I was born at Deering, Alaska, on October 3, 1906, to Frank and Kitty Wells, both reindeer herders during my early school days. In 1914, we moved with two-thirds of the people of Deering from the barren coastland to build a new village on the Kobuk River.
Even the Deering school was dismantled for the move. Charles Replogle, the principal teacher, moved with us on the steamship Cordova from Deering to Kotzebue, which was already quite a big town with its cannery, stores, and B.I.A. school. I don't know how long we stayed in Kotzebue, but I do remember there were so many mosquitoes that some dogs died.
A tug named Challenge pulled our barge of belongings to our new home in wonderful scenery full of spruce, willows, alder, sloughs, lakes, and rivers, with lots of waterfowl flying and swimming around. I sure had hopes that I was old enough to hunt!
My mother and Fred Thomas named the new village Noorvik, meaning "moving place." It was established as a reservation by executive order of President Woodrow Wilson on November 20, 1914. Five hundred people now live in Noorvik.
My older brother Charles was so anxious to go to high school that he was sent out to Chemawa, Oregon, but after three years and two months he got pneumonia and died. That same year I was ready to go to the university in Fairbanks, but after my brother died my parents would not let me go, saying that I might also die if I left home.
At the end of eight grades of school, I became a reindeer herder. In 1946 my wife Pauline died, leaving me with seven children to support. I went to work in the mines. In 1950 I married Helen T. Ballot. We have a girl. From my first wife I have one boy and four girls and very many grandchildren.
In 1951 1 was elected a representative in the Territorial legislature meeting in Juneau. After two years as representative, I ran again but lost by only 70 votes.
At present I am a lay pastor for the Selawik Friends Church, replacing a pastor who died in the fall of 1973.
JAMES K. WELLS