The stories we have compiled are important because they mark the history of our Cup'ik people. All of these stories are valuable because it gives us perspective of our ancestry. Most of these stories, I don't believe our elders today know to much about.
The Shamans and their Powers
Before the influence of the missionaries, shamans possessed powers that were beyond physical powers. Their achievements were considered impossible for any human being to accomplish. All ethnic groups of Alaska had shamans and are believed to have helped the survival of many centuries by providing animals and fish for hunters.
Shaman healed many people of their ailments and sicknesses and they also gave advice when people wanted answers to the things they didn't understand. It was believed that Shaman traveled through the ocean floor to bring schools of fish and ice floes of seals to hunters. There were many things Shaman did for their own people.
When qissunamiut shaman go on trips to the spirit world, they took many hours. While the shaman was absent, the men in the qaygiq sang and drum special songs that the shaman taught them. This singing of special songs took place until the Shaman returned from his journey. The men did not leave the qaygiq where the shaman started his trip. If they did leave, it was believed that the shaman would not be able to find his way back to the qaygiq.
The trips that the shamans made were to places where the spirits of the animals live. The Cup’ik Eskimos believe that all living things and animals that have been caught for food have spirit places where they will never die. During spring seasons, the shamans bring the spirits of the animals and fishes to the people so that starvation will not plague the villages. When the shamans get what they are pursuing, they take a long time to come home [when they are traveling through the ice?]. Also, forces by other shamans may hold them back from coming home.
Joe Friday witnessed one shaman named Kangciurluq, who traveled through the ocean floor to bring ice flows to the Qissunaq area.
Preparation for travel was made for Kangciurluq on a cold mid-winter day. All the people were gathered into a qaygiq. A few hundred feet away from the qaygiq, a hole was made into a lake and covered with snow. The hole in the lake is called anluaq. It was made so a person can go in and stand up without lacking room.
There were two women watching the door, one a shaman's wife and the other, a close relative. Kangciurluq brought along Joe Friday to act as a witness for the people. The shaman considers a person witnessing him an assistant even though that person doesn't do anything but watch every move that the shaman makes.
The snow was being blown all around the village, making it hard to see, even for a few feet. So an older man was asked to come along just in case Joe Friday got lost while he is on his way to inform the people of the shaman's activities.
On the way to the anluaq, Kangciurluq walked with his head down holding onto two walking sticks. When they got to the anluaq, Kangciurluq jumped in. Joe was watching every move the shaman made. After a few seconds, Kangciurluq wiggled his body and each wiggle brought him deeper into the lake. His seal gut raincoat was blown up around his body. He wiggled again one more time and he went deeper into the lake. Joe heard an utter of words in Cup'ik but couldn't make out what he was saying. Joe Friday went to inspect Kangciurluq's face and heard him say, "Make sure you tell the people everything I have done." His words came from deep inside his chest but they were understandable. After telling Joe to tell the people of everything he did, he went into a deep trance.
Joe hurriedly went to the qaygiq after the shaman went into the deep trance. As he entered the qaygiq, the men jumped up from their seating places and asked him what the shaman had done. Joe told them of how the shaman jumped into the lake and mimicked the way he had wiggled. The men excitedly said, "Yes, he has gone!" The men started to sing and drum the special songs taught to them by Kangciurluq.
After singing for quite awhile, the people started to think that Kangciurluq was frozen by now because it was extremely cold outside. The men sang and sang the special songs until finally Kangciurluq's head appeared through the entranceway and two men helped him up. His body was not frozen but dripping wet from the trip he took.
Kangciurluq started going around to each person and gave each person an item of clothing that he wore on his trip. The first item that came off was a wooden pendant carved in the image of an animal that he had pursued. He was worn out from his trip, and he let the people take one item off of him. The clothing he gave to the people consisted of mittens, a muskrat parka, piluguks, and five raincoats.
After all his clothes were taken off, he started beating his drum. He crouched down and uttered, "abuba!" [what does this mean?] He rested for five days in the men's qaygiq, and went out only when the men came to have their fire baths.
There was another qissunamiut shaman named Paningcano, who got lost while traveling through the ocean floor. He was trying to get to the qaygiq in Qissunaq, but instead he came up in the Hooper Bay qaygiq. The people didn't bother to help him up so he dived into the ocean and tried again.
While in Qissunaq, the people were waiting for him to come home. Paningcan took too long to return home and the children started to cry and the people were getting tired. So Aiggalnguq, Ulric Nayamin's father left and the rest of the people followed.
Finally after many hours, Paningcan arrived into the village of Qissunaq. It was strange to see a shaman walk back from the trip he took. He started to explain why he had walked back. "Since I had no way of coming up, I had to come out at the mouth of Qissunaq. If any of you don't believe me, follow my tracks and there you will see where I came up. "
Not believing him, two men named Awakiaq and Akiuq went to check where he came up. They walked and walked until they came to the place where he came up. There was a hole with big boulders of ice heaved up with great force and a little distance away there they saw where Paningcan had landed.
On another trip Paningcan traveling with his leader, Narullgirareq, a reddish mink-like weasel came across very high winds. When shaman experience very high winds on his trips, it means there is another shaman traveling the same dimension as he is traveling.
Every time a very high wind came about, Narullgirareq would signal to Paningcan to crouch down to shield himself from being blown around. Narullgirareq would lead him, like a lead dog leading his troupe. They were bringing home an ice flow of seals to the people of Qissunaq.
As they went along, they came face to face with a Qayalivigmiut shaman named Aparan. Qayaliviq is located at the northern part of Newtok. Aparan was traveling with his daughter, Minegtuli. She was under his guidance to become a shaman. She would always travel with her father every time he went on his shamanistic trips. Whenever her father got ready to travel, she would go up on top of their qaygiq and disappear when Aparan dived into a water hole.
Well, Paningcan, thinking that Aparan was alone, challenged Aparan to fight with him. Aparan didn't want to fight, knowing that he was a weaker shaman than Paningcan. He told him to go on his way and not fight with him. Without warning, Paningcan made himself bigger by stepping on Aparan's feet and put Aparan's head under his chin. When Aparan got weak, Paningcan let him go. Then they stretched their arms out and tried to crush each other.
Minegtuli sensed that her father was in trouble and right away she went right down into the ocean floor to help him out. Minegtuli and her father fought Paningcan until he was weak and tore his clothes to shreds. They left him, taking the ice flow that he was bringing home to the people of Qissunaq.
By now the people of Qissunaq were very worried because Paningcan took an awful long time to come home. They knew something was wrong, and Yaqulek, Paningcan's son, tried his very best to find out where he was. But with the little power he acquired from his father, he failed.
As the people of Qissunaq lost all hope of ever seeing Paningcan again, he arrived looking like he was in an ugly fight.
Soon after his arrival, Yaqulek became ill and died all of a sudden. Paningcan greatly grieved his son's death that he became evil and hateful. He began turning his powers against his own people.
On some nights, when his sorrow was too great for him, he would go out beyond the village of Qissunaq and grieve for his son. He would open his body towards of the sea, and the area around him would light up. He was scaring the animals of the sea, making them hard to catch and hard to find. The action he was using is referred as "ullirtaaq."
One night as he was opening his body, a man named Aparrliq caught him. Paningcan begged the man not to tell the men of the village of what he was doing. Because if the men of the village found out about him, they wouldn't leave him alone. They would probably kill him for casting a spell on the sea.
So Paningcan offered to give Aparrliq one of his powers. Aparrliq chose his anelrayuli, a smelt that swims down the Yukon Delta, to determine if there would be salmon or any other fish during the summer. If the salmon swam up the Yukon, it meant no salmon for the summer, but if the smelt swam down the Yukon, this meant a lot of salmon and other fish for the people of Qissunaq.
Paningcan taught Aparrliq the chants and what actions to make in order to make the smelt do what it is supposed to do.
The process when acquiring knowledge involves learning chants and special powers is referred to as qaniqun or qanruarun. The qaniqun can be learned by anyone because they consist of remedies used for curing oneself of sicknesses, advice for everyday living, and being successful in hunting. They are taught word-for-word from one generation to the next. The person learning it must memorize all of it. The qaniqun are taught at night, away from everybody else in the village. This is because the qaniqun is a family heirloom and greatly treasured by family members and they do not want the others to know they have them. Once a person has learned the chants, the other people cannot understand it.
The people often called upon the shamans with healing powers if one of their family members were ill. The people offered the shaman a fee of food, skins, furs or even special favors. Some remedies worked, while others did not.
The anelrayuli that Paningcan taught Aparrliq was not a qaniqun used by regular human beings but a special power used only by the shamans.
After learning the chants and the motions, Aparrliq made a public statement that he was going to use his anelrayuli for his daughter's first Eskimo dance. When a man's first child Eskimo dances, he must provide food for the whole village. This is called kalukaq, or giving a potlatch for the whole village. Giving anything away to the people in the village for their child's first Eskimo dance is called taruyararluki or ineqsugyugluteng.
With the assistance of Kumerluq, Aparrliq tried out his powers of anelrayuli. He tried to move the smelt from under the tree to the Yukon River but to no avail; he couldn't make it move. Aparrliq started to cry with frustration. But he kept on trying until he made it move. Then he started to laugh and was happy in many things he did. He started jumping around the qaygiq, telling the people to remove tiny pieces of sticks along the qaygiq. He would tell the people where the smelt was located and where it was swimming. He would seem most happy when the smelt was out of the Yukon River. The smelt would swim down the coast of the Yukon Delta, making huge waves as it gathered all kinds of seals and fishes. The breaking waves in front of the smelt made it look like it had a huge mouth, and Aparrliq and the other shamans would become scared.
Aparrliq would become very serious and concerned when it approached the Hooper Bay point, or the Nuvuk as they called it. When it approached the Nuvuk, he would get ready to meet it. He would put on a seal gut raincoat and tie a belt around his waist. He went to one corner of the qaygiq, ran toward the underground doorway, and jumped in. He didn't even touch the sides around the entranceway. He looked like he jumped into the water. When he returned, he started laughing and said; "What we were scared of was a tiny smelt coming back!"
Aparrliq started chanting until the smelt went back to its original place under the tree in the Yukon.
The shamans pass their powers onto their sons or daughters. In learning the skills of a shaman, a person must learn all the chants and the motions. The shaman must do what the people tell him to do. He must work only for the people, if the shaman does things against the people, the people will easily have him killed. When a person asks a beginner shaman to pursue something, that shaman must try out something simple. He can try to pursue an abundance of mice, so mice food will be available for the people. He can also pursue needlefish, so the people would have plenty of year’s supply of needlefish. Later on if the shaman has more experience, he may pursue bigger or more complicated things like ice flows of seals or large quantities of fish.
The shamans are like ordinary human beings, but they had special powers that helped the people in times when they needed it. They mostly pursued subsistence foods in order for the people to survive in this harsh environment.
Today shamans are considered evil because missionaries considered shaman as evil. The first missionaries saw the shaman’s powers and the dances of the people for the shamans as the worship of the devil even though it meant survival for our own people.
To the Eskimos, the ingenious minds of the shamans meant survival and moral support in helping understand the unknown in our cold, harsh environment which, without them, we would have perished.
Encountering Supernatural Beings
A long time ago, our forefathers encountered supernatural beings and some have become stories that were passed down from one generation to the next. Encounters of supernatural beings were all true and it can happen to anyone and anybody. Therefore you must know how to deal with them.
An Amikuk is a supernatural being that is encountered in the tundra, and it can be either seen or unseen. If you encounter an invisible Amikuk, you will hear whooshing sounds through the air, and there is nothing you can do about it. But if you see a creature that dives in and out of the tundra as if it is water, it is identified as an Amikuk. There is often a small nest close by, and the Amikuk will act like a bird that is trying to protect its nest. If you find the nest, you wouldn't find any eggs, only small pieces of fur. When these nests are taken home, they produce many riches of furs, skins, and other items. A person can place small portions of furs, skins, or other items inside the nest, and they will become whole the next day. For example, if I put a small portion of beaver skin inside the nest, the next day, it will become a whole beaver skin. It also applies to other things, not just to furs and skins.
Some people in our history were known to have the riches of furs, skins, and other items from the nests of the Amikuk. One story is told of a man that did not hunt furred animals but possessed many furs and was considered rich. Another story is told about a brother and a sister wandering out in the tundra. They found a strange nest with small pieces of fur inside, the size of a Lapland longspur. They went home and told Elders of their experience out in the tundra. The Elders verified that the nest was a nest of an Amikuk. The brother and the sister went back to take the nest home but the nest was no where to be seen.
There were creatures that walked the tundra which are described similar to the historic animals called mammoths. They walked slowly and their footprints could be seen but their bodies were invisible. The whistling, breathing sound they made and the sound would go in one direction identifies these creatures.
The sounds of the mammoth was actually heard by Ulric Nayamin and Joseph Tulim of Chevak, when they were young boys hunting little birds in Issurituliq, 15 miles southwest of Chevak.
QAMULEK, THE DRAGGER
Today, our forefathers tell us about an actual experience in which a man encountered a Qamulek and experienced looking into the bag of the Qamulek even though he was urged not to look into it.
Maralaq was a great hunter, who was fearless and strong. He possessed everything that he saw and wanted. One day as he was on a hunting trip out in the tundra he encountered the Qamulek. The Qamulek is the scariest of all the encounters that a man can have. He is a supernatural being that all young men as well as the old want to encounter. The people believed that it is the power of the mind that created the animals to be hunted. Created and put in front to be caught no matter what the conditions may be [what does that mean?].
When Marallaq saw the Qamulek, he asked him; "What are you doing in my path?" The Qamulek replied, "It is you who put me here." Then without mercy, Marallaq started shooting the Qamulek. Finally Qamulek told Marallaq that he would die when he shoots the thing he is dragging. But before he died, he warned Marallaq, "Whatever you may do with me, do not look into the bag I am dragging." Marallaq got very curious and went ahead to look into the bag.
From that day on, after his experience with the Qamulek, his health and quality of life declined. He no longer was a fearless, strong hunter but a humble quiet man until he the day he died. When he recounted the story of how he encountered the prized catch, the Qamulek, he ended his story where he opened the bag of the Qamulek. Marallaq would break down crying and say he could not tell what he saw in that bag. The secret he held until his death was never revealed. The people who heard his story would contemplate on what he saw in that bag. Some would ask, "Was it to where he was going after he dies that Marallaq cried about?"
To this very day, rules of meeting a Qamulek is passed on so something good can come out of it. A Qamulek will only travel in a straight line. So when you meet a Qamulek out in the tundra, block his path by turning your back on him. Do not look at him. A Qamulek has a scary face, beyond the imagination of a human mind.
When the Qamulek gets to where you are he will ask you, "What are you doing in my path?" You don't have to answer the questions he is asking you, but later he will offer to give you extraordinary gifts in which anybody may want in this day and age. He may name gifts related to the needs of the human beings: long life, riches of this life, beautiful wife, wisdom beyond all wisdom; great hunter, anything. When he mentions the one you want, you must identify it and say, "Yeah, that's the one I want." When you are assured of the gift, you will leave the Qamulek's path and never look back. Then you will enjoy your gift until you die.
QUNUNI OF THE SEA
During early, foggy, calm morning hours, a cry of oohing sound could be heard. Follow the sound through the thick fog. When you are closer to the Qununi, the atmosphere may change. You will see an abundance of sea animals like all sorts of seals along with the other animals of the sea. All the animals you see are the baits of the Qununi, which are called awayrui or necaq. If you catch or take any of these seals or animals your encounter with the Qununi will have no results of you becoming a great hunter. You must try to pursue the Qununi avoiding all the seals and other sea animals.
You will see a person seated on an ice flow wearing a seal gut raincoat. His head will be resting on his folded arms on his knees. Then he will look up into the sky and howl like a wolf. He looks like a dead person with white skin and the outline of his mustache is very prominent.
You must harpoon lightly the last two-column hem of the seal gut raincoat so the harpoon tip would go in and hold the Qununi. The Qununi will then get up suddenly and dive into the water trying to escape. At the certain time of the day the Qununi will transform into a one-year-old bearded seal. The transformation of the Qununi to a seal will predict how long your life will be. If the Qununi turns into a bearded seal in the morning, your life will be short; noon transformation means half a life; late afternoon or evening means a full life into ripe old age.
At this time when the Qununi has transformed into a one-year-old bearded seal, it can now be killed. The seal will not escape because of the harpoon line in which you are pulling on the ice. Kill the Qununi upon transformation into a seal. Cut it up into portions so it can be easier to handle when bringing home. You must take the entire seal home, even the blood on the snow.
You will see all the many seals on your way home, and again you must not catch or take any of the animals. The seals you saw when you were pursuing the Qununi are the seals you will catch later on during your lifetime. After a man's experience in encountering a Qununi, that person will become a great hunter.
Many of our ancestors have heard of these beings and some had close encounters. But two brothers from Hooper Bay have actually caught one.
Stand guard, someday it may happen to you!
MICE FOOD (BECOMING HEALERS)
The Cup’ik people look for food that mice have stored for the winter, and is abundant in the low land areas. They are tasty roots of grass which are added to soup such as seal and bird.
When a person opens the food supply of the mice and finds a ball of squirming worms, do not fear; this might be a challenge of your life. The worms, which are the size of softball, squirm without falling all over the place. This ball of worms is called mellquripsaq. The worms stay together in a ball, which may be a startling and unpleasant site. The colors of the worms are darkish, black, or gray.
To become a healer, a person must use both hands to cover the worms with a part of their clothing. The sensation will feel like little spines going into the hands. When the cloth is uncovered, the worms will disappear. After this experience, a person will become a healer. To see whether or not a person can heal, a test can be done on a broken stick of wood. If a broken stick is back in place after hands are put on the stick, then this person has powers to heal broken bones or other ailments.
If a person finds food such as needlefish or other food in the mouse supplies hole, the person must eat it. When this food is eaten, the healer will be able to use their saliva to heal cuts, sores and other ailments of the body.
As a child Lillian Pingayak, who is a member of our village, experienced finding worms in the mouse supply food; she was a little girl at that time and did not know what to do. She ran home as soon as she saw the worms. If she had known what to do she would have been a healer today.
THE IRCINRRAQ (THE LITTLE PEOPLE)
The Ircinrraq are three feet tall and are considered very stingy and strong. If a person encounters an Ircinrraq, he or she must fight them in order to get a gift from them. Once an Ircinrraq offers a gift, the offer must be accepted. Out in the tundra the Ircinrraq can disappear while running to the side of the mountains and the banks of the rivers. When you see an Ircinrraq, you will not think it's an Ircinrraq, but a little man.
Another type of Ircinrraq is the Cingssiigat, and they are a foot tall. These beings come out at night in abandoned mud houses and disappear into the sides of the mud houses. They possess objects that humans consider very useful. For example: An unfortunate hunter took and fought a Cingssiigaq after waiting in an empty qaygiq in the middle of the night for three days. After asking for a gift from these beings, the unfortunate hunter then became a great hunter.
The third kind of Ircinrraq is an Egassuayaq. Their eyes are in a vertical position, and they have very long sleeves that almost touch the ground. They steal from our blackfish traps.
The killer whales are considered to be Ircinrraq, which we are not allowed to kill, hunt, or injure. If a man kills or injures a killer whale, their immediate family member will die the following year.
When the killer whales are in pursuit of beluga whales and make a catch, we can offer something valuable in exchange for a slab of mangtaq (oil). We place the valuable in the ocean water and the slab of mangtaq will surface, perfectly cut into a square.
The Ircinrraq are intelligent beings that are not often seen by human beings. There are places that they are known to live. Sometimes they have held special potlatches to which our people were invited. One story is about an Ircinrraq who held a potlatch of food and stools of dogs. One Ircinrraq family advised a poor family to gather all the stools of the dogs that the people that were invited might have thrown on their way home. The stools turned into food and furs while the food and furs turned into stools of dogs as they went out the village of the Ircinrraq.
There was also an incident in which a man watched the Ircinrraq Eskimo dancing through a window. As he looked away, he realized that his clothing and his hunting equipment looked old and weather beaten. As the saying goes: if you watch Ircinrraq doing things, you will be watching them for one year but to you the incident may have occurred for only a few minutes.
IKUYGUUQ (SMALL RINGED SEAL)
The scariest and the most horrifying encounter are referred to as ikuyguuq. The ikuyguuq is a small ringed seal that hops from the ocean and is known to reach villages that may be situated close to the ocean. Usually, the seal reaches the village while a special celebration is in progress. The celebration of the Eskimo dance is called kassiyuq. The kassiyuq is a very happy occasion in which all the village members are involved and would be having a great time. The kassiyuq takes place in a large men's house called the qaygiq.
When the elders say "cauyaryaraq," it refers to Eskimo dance for kassiyuq. Practices often took place in a dark building to perfect the songs and to make the songs rhythmical and congenial to be suitable to the human ear.
When the seal came in, it would hop around the perimeter of the large building. All the people inside the qaygiq would stop whatever they were doing and await the passing of the seal as it hopped along. Those people that the seal passed would have no control over their bodies. They would go into a deep trance, giggling, roll onto their backs and move toward the path of the seal. The length of their lives is determined where the people died. Those who are going to live a short life would die before they reach the doorway, while others would die along the way to the ocean. Those that were going to live a long life crawl on their backs, the elbows making the body move across the snow covered ground until they dive into the freezing waters of the Arctic.
The people that the seal didn't pass by, would panic seeing the people die off as the seal hopped past them. They would try to tie themselves to the qaygiq beds with seal cords or whatever may hold them. But as the seal hopped past them, the people would start to untie the seal cords even though they didn't want to. They had no control over themselves what so ever.
The seal goes around the qaygiq and goes back to the sea, followed by all the people that were in the qaygiq. Some people dying off on their way to the ocean and others dived into the ocean.
Ikuyguuq happens during the bladder festival celebrations. The walrus bladders are the most sensitive of all the bladders. They get easily startled when people make sudden noises during the bladder festival celebrations. People often blame the walrus bladders for being responsible for bringing the ikuyguuq to the people. When the walrus bladders are displeased with the people who treated them disrespectfully and startled them during the Bladder festival celebrations.
Ikuyguuq actually happened in Nunivak; many of the people that were inside the qaygiq were killed. A few family groups that were not involved in the kassiyuq survived the supernatural encounter.
Ikuyguuq was almost a reality in Qissunaq but was saved by one man named Ayburturalria, the father of Ulric Ulroan and Teresa Tommy (Nanugaq). He was a serious man who never joined in on the celebrations or kassiyuq. He only thought of what he was going to be doing later on in life.
He was outside leaning against the post beside the food storage house called the mayurpak. During this time, the men from the Uniqullermiut qaygiq had went to the Qaygicuaremiut qaygiq to join in on the kassiyuq. The Uniqullermiut men had left their bladders in columns on one side of the sidewall. Harpoons tied all the bladders together in family groups. Seal skin rope cords interconnected all the bladders. The men had appointed one man to guard the bladders.
Later on during the night, a small seal came into a clear view at the foot of the entranceway. When Ayrurturalria first saw the seal, he was happy to see the seal and thought what a good meal it is going to be. He started to look around for a weapon to kill the small seal. Then he realized how strange it was for the seal to be so far away from the ocean water.
By using his foot, he motioned it to continue toward the door and the small seal quickly responded. He stopped the seal with his foot and motioned it to turn around the opposite direction it came from. Then he motioned it to go towards the ocean. As the seal went, it went quite a ways but the size of the seal never changed. The size remained the same even though the foreground of the seal’s path, although far away, seemed real close.
When he went into the qaygiq, the elders asked him what was the matter with him and he replied; "Nothing." They kept on insisting he tell them what was on his mind because as he entered he looked like he wanted to tell them something. Finally, he gave in and told them what had just happened out there. The shamans got ready right away and tried to find out what the spirits’ intentions were. It was a close call, because most of the people would have died and many of our people would not be here today.
During the time the small seal was on its way to the qaygiq, the seal bladders were trying to get away. The guard had fallen asleep and when he woke up, the bladders were swaying back and forth. The lamplight went out and noises of all kinds of animals could be heard. The man summoned all the men in the other qaygiq and they tried -all they could to calm the bladders down. Many people say that the bladders would have gone away if they were too late.
All of our young people must be told what may happen in their lives. Sometimes its always helpful to know many things that the people in the past have experienced, just in case one of our young people experiences them. The more knowledgeable you are, the wisdom is acquired to guide your people.
In the early days, people experienced encounters with the Ircinrrat. Ircinrrat are little people about three feet tall and their actions are the same as people. There are known areas around Chevak which are considered by the Cup’iks, the home areas of these people. There are different stories told by the elders related to these types of people.
An encounter by Joe Friday with an Ircinrrat occurred when he was a young man, traveling by pushing his sled around the Ukalikciq area. -As he went along-he saw a small man wearing a parka, on top of a hill. The small man was watching him as he was passing by. He didn't think of stopping to say hello but he kept on going. When he got home he forgot about the small man but remembered a few days later.
Another one of Joseph Friday's encounter with an Ircinrrat occurred when he was paddling his kayak in the Aprun river. He came to a village with many people doing many things. He watched them for awhile and kept on going. He paddled his kayak a little ways and looked back and saw -white foxes playing among themselves. He realized that the foxes were Ircinrrat because the foxes had turned into human forms for him. He wondered what would have happened to him if he had gone over to the village.
It is known by the Cup’ik people that if someone encounters the Ircinrrat, he must try and take something that belongs to them. The thing taken is for good luck. For example, if the tool is for hunting then a person will always have good luck in hunting. The rewards may not apply only to hunting but to other special, valuable gifts.
On some occasions the people knew it that Ircinrrat thump their feet on the ground. The thumping of the Ircinrrat was heard in semi-subterranean houses, foretelling that an unfortunate event was going to happen to someone. For example, if a thumping sound was heard a person may have an accident or die of natural causes. Ulric Nayamin heard the thumping sound of Ircinrrat. The people were told that they should not fear these because they foretell what will happen in the future.
In Qissunaq, an unfortunate hunter one day decided to watch out for Cingssiigats. Cingssiigat are little people, usually about 5 to 12 inches in height. He went inside the qaygiq and sat in a sitting position with his parka over his legs and his arms inside his parka. He waited all night but didn't hear any kind of activity. The second night he heard voices and activity but didn’t see any little people. The third night he saw Cingssiigat playing inside and outside of the walls. Soon after, a little person got brave and came close to him. Finally, without warning, he grabbed one Cingssiigaq. As the man grabbed him, the Cingssiigaq flipped him around. The man was stronger than the little man was. The Cingssiigaq asked the man to let him go. The man told him that he would not let him go. The little man kept begging him to let go. "The dawn is coming, let me go!" The man told him again, "I will not let you go!" The Cingssiigaq gave him his belt saying, "This is the only thing I have. Wear it all the time." The man let him go. The Cingssiigaq went toward the wall slowly and disappeared between the logs. The man became a good hunter and a fortunate man. He never again wanted to be like the other men who were fortunate in their hunting.
Another incident with an Ircinrrat occurred when a man was traveling from Tevyarmiut to Qamaneq by qayaq. He saw an Ircinrrat dragging a log with his qayaq. As soon as the Ircinrrat saw the man, he raced toward the bank of the river. The man paddled after him as fast as he could and grabbed the tip of the log. The Ircinrrat asked him to drop the log but the man refused. Finally the Ircinrrat told the man that he was going to use the log to make a harpoon, a nanerpaq. So the man made the end of the log into a harpoon head. Afterward, every time the man went after seals, he seemed to be luckier than the others are. He became a good hunter after his encounter with an Ircinrrat.
Another type of Ircinrrat is an Egassuayaq. They have the same height as humans, with a dark face, long sleeves and eyes in a vertical position. These Egassuayat stole blackfish from the blackfish traps of humans. One man would set his fish trap and each time he checked it, it would be misplaced and had not caught any fish. Finally, the man went out early in the morning. When he came close to his fish trap, he saw an Egassuayaq leaving his trap. The man hollered after. him, "So you're the guy who has been checking my trap without my permission, you Egassuayaq!" The Egassuayaq did not like what he was being called and he answered back at him, "Your name is Cup’ik!" At a later time, the Egassuayaq fought the man he encountered, inside an empty house. The Egassuayaq threw the man around. The man moved with all his might toward where the pot was, and he put the Egassuayaq under the pot and the Egassuayaq became very weak.
Other encounters with Ircinrrat consist of the mountains or hills becoming as windows or doors. It can happen to anybody. If a person looks in either the window or the door, the person will look away only after one whole year. To the person looking in, the incident will only last a few minutes but in reality, it has taken one full year. The man that actually looked inside the window, into the Ingrissaaraq mountain (five miles southeast of Chevak), watched two Ircinrraqs pitting their strength and skill against each other. When they were gone, he got up and saw that his push. sled was white with age. He realized that he had watched the two Ircinrraqs for one year even though it had seemed only a few minutes to him.
If you hear noises of more than one person and can see nobody, you must pretend to remove arrows from your body. Because the Ircinrraqs are running after a person or are being hunted.
The Ircinrraqs are supernatural beings, which may have existed when the ground was thin. The Cup’ik people believed that many different beings and encounters with beings occurred when the ground was very thin. Any encounters with supernatural beings take time to remember. After a few days, a person will remember his encounter. During encounters with these beings, the mind does not say that they are Ircinrraqs and their tools and their products are those of Ircinrraqs. These incidents are all true and they took place many years ago, when the ground was thin.
THE SEA IN CUP'IK LIFE
In the Cup’ik way of living, both the land and the sea have rules to follow in order for the person to survive. The rules applied to supernatural encounters or actual dangerous animals that a person may see and encounter. The Elders in the qaygiq teach all of the rules. Both parents, and others teach some men by close relatives.
The encounters of a supernatural being, the qununi, (demon). The demons are all dead human beings that may be seen. The Cup’ik hunters and the coastal Eskimos were aware of these beings, and most or all of the men wanted an encounter with these qununiit. The qununiit are heard only in the early foggy morning conditions. These are the only times they are heard. When the. oohing sound of the qununi can be heard, the hunter must go toward the sound because the fog will enable the person to see 50 to 100 feet away. Before encountering with the qununi, many seals, both on ice and water can be seen. These are bearded seals, spotted seals, and ringed seals. The abundance of the seals is the baits of the qununi. If a person kills a seal other than the qununi, the encounter of the qununi will have no results of a person becoming a good hunter. The abundance of the seals is the neqcaq (bait) of the qununi.
Then the qununi can be seen. He will be sitting on the ice flow, wearing a seal gut raincoat, waterproof mittens, and waterproof boots. While sitting down, his raincoat trim is laid flat on the ice. The face of the qununi is as pale as snow. outline of his mustache is dark. He lays his head to his arms, and each time he looks up he utters an oohing sound. On the second strip of the sewn gut, a person must lightly harpoon the seal gut raincoat and none of his body. The qununi will then get up and run to the water and dive. The qununi will be coming up for air and dive like a seal. Finally, if the man turns into a one-year-old seal, the person can now harpoon the seal. A person must take all the parts of the seal, including the blood. The blood that is on the snow must be taken and put into the boat or qayaq. The people that tell of these creatures do not mention the strength of these man seals.
While going home, a person will see all the seals again, which are the neqcaq (bait) of the qununi. The person again must not catch any animals. After reaching home, a person will have abundance of seals, when hunting at the sea. The abundance of seals consists of the neqcaq of the qununi.
The Elders of our village know of two men of Hooper Bay that encountered a qununi. They were unfortunate lowly hunters, that most of the time they got nothing. After catching a qununi, they got all kinds of seals they wanted. The other men of Qissunaq have heard of these Qununiit, but were unable to pursue them because of the bad ice conditions.
There are also rules about encountering nanuat (polar bears). If a nanuaq dives away from you, beware because it is on pursuit. While diving, it is going to turn underwater to swim toward you. Therefore, you must travel to the area where the nanuaq submerged. You must do it as fast as you can because the nanuaq cannot turn quickly underwater. But if the nanuaq submerges facing you, do not be alarmed because it is going to dive and swim away from you.
You must always watch out for two small, white sea birds that swim together. They can be the ears of the nanuaq in pursuit of a prey. Therefore, you must always take a closer look.
There are many seals that we encounter during the hunting seasons. There are several different bearded seals, one of the bearded seals is a black-furred bearded seal that we call ullacuk. They are usually shiny black when swimming. Qutkiliq are white bearded seals that the people hardly notice in the sea, but the imprints of the nose and the eyes can be seen. People actually got close to them but did not notice them right away. Another bearded seal is the red bearded seal that we call ayuqeyvit. The redness of the seal starts on the top of the head to the shoulders. The black, two circle breasted, bearded seal is called tullignaq, and the biggest bearded seal that is as big as a walrus is called maklagpak.
Another species of seals is the spotted seal, and there are three different types of spotted seals. The big spotted seal that is larger than the regular spotted seal is called issurrnaq. The regular spotted is called, issurriq, and we call their pups qutngut.
Ringed seals are another species of seals, and there are three types. The bigger ringed seal is called nayivak. Nayiq is the regular ringed seal and their offsprings are called nayilkarat.
A mammal that also roams our part of the ocean is the white beluga, and we call it cituaq. A citurrnaq is the bigger white beluga, and it has two layers of apamaruaq muscles. The rise from the head to the tail area is called apamaruaq. Any rise or rim of the qayaq or the boat or a person's muscles on the side of the ribs are also called apamaruaq. None of these animals have rules on how to encounter them.
Another creature that has been seen and encountered is the thin snake-like cord that wraps around the qayaq long ago. The description fits the arm of the octopus. This creature is called nemeryaq. Before the arm wraps around the qayaq, a person must quickly place an ice pick on top of the qayaq, enabling the nemeryaq to wrap around it. Once its done, the person can cut off the arms of the nemeryaq, using the legcik as a cutting board, ayaaleq. The oils of the seals surface from the ocean around where the nemeryaq was encountered.
Any of these living creatures (unbvalriit) can be seen in any parts of the ocean. Many of these seals or ungvalriit, travel toward the Northern waters during spring seal hunting season. When seals swim showing only their noses, they are said to be ugnarareluteng. Ugnarareluteng describes the nose being very small to see like the mice. Once the seal gets to the ice flow area, the seal will be surfacing without being scared.
Anytime during the day, sleeping seals can be seen. When a sleeping seal is seen with its back surfaced, eyes closed, and once in awhile come up for air, the seal is known to be putuukuarluteng. But when the seal is sleeping upright, it is said to be napartellrianeng. When mak’lliit ( big bearded seals) are calling their mates, they are said to qalriq. The sound of the mak’lliit are sounds that are indescribable. The stillness of the calm weather enables the sound to be heard. The seals make their sounds underwater.
When a seal on the ice block is sleeping and bends both the head and the flippers, it is referred as ipuyuli.
It is told that all seals and fishes found around the coasts have bigger beings in the ocean, and these are not considered creatures to be afraid of. The rules and their kinds were told before a young man goes out to the sea. The Elders pass on all of these to the young. It is very valuable to know the rules of the sea before a man goes out hunting.
In the early 1900s, the men had special good luck charms called inuq. The inuq was a personal belonging that was valued by men. Some men kept them in their homes, and some brought them everywhere they went.
The inuqs were used for healing purposes. Some of the shamans gave inuqs when they healed people of their ailments. The wise men advised everyone to search for their inuq or to look for them. Some people used their inuqs to apply their charms on the ailments of the body.
In the Kuskokwim areas, the term inuq is used to name the medicines today. The reason is because these medicines are used to heal people of their ailments and sicknesses.
In the old days, the people used these inuqs to be free of sicknesses and for being healthy, but mainly they used them as good luck charms.
It is known that a man had a inuq made of ivory, which was hung in the middle of his house. It would turn as it is hung with a string or leather. When someone was going to die, the inuq would whistle or make noise.
Another man had an inuq made of an old mask in which he would carry everywhere he went inside a wooden box. Ississi was the name of his inuq, it was named after Natalia Nayamin's grandfather.
Different names were given to the inuqs. Some of the inuqs were given names by the owners and others were named after the shamans that gave them their inuqs. Inuqs are not referred as bad replicas but good replicas for one's own good luck.
They had rituals relating to the searching of the inuqs. The feeling for the inuqs under the seat covering of a person sitting down in the qaygiq. The exact procedure is not known today, but the ritual was actually seen by Joe Friday.
The ingcuk is a nose ornament that was worn by the women of old Qissunaq and other settlements of the Cup’ik people. The three pearl-like crystals were tied together and worn at the base of the nose. The ingcuks are bluish in color, shiny and clear with stick-like particles inside that seem to move under the sunlight. These ornaments were very valuable in those days. Our two Elders expressed the value of these stones: Joe Friday and Ulric Nayamin.
One story was told of killer whales, using the bay around the Nelson Island mountains (Qaluyaat — name used to call the mountains in Cup’ik) as their home. When the killer whales swam, they sounded like people paddling their qayaqs. They were like people in those days, and they were greatly respected by the Cup’ik people. When the killer whales went after belugas or other whales and made a catch, people sank some valuables in exchange for a slab of skin or oil. The slab of skin or oil would surface looking as if it was cut with a knife. When killer whales give them a piece of their catch, it is called ukurcilluki, meaning giving them oil, or negirluki, meaning sharing of the catch. It is told that one man sank a valuable half of an ingcuk to the killer whales after which the whales surfaced with a whole whale for the man and his family.
Killer whales that gave a whole whale indicated the value of the ingcuk. This depended on the value of what the hunters sank for the killer whales, and they would give them the amount of the value with a piece or a whole whale.
There is another story relating to the value of the ingcuk: a judge from Mountain Village, named Astaq came to Qissunaq to trade with the people. The people called him Nayilek, meaning a person who wears seal skin parka, pants, and hat. Kinguk (sister of Atcherian’s father) showed him a pearl-sized ingcuk. The trader looked at the ingcuk for a long time, and he decided to trade it with tea, flour, tobacco, and other goods.
The brightness of the crystal-like stone is called cungavyeq, which means the stone that shines and glitters in the sunlight. There were songs and dances made, stating the brightness and the glitter of the ingcuk as flashy fires.
The ingcuks were worn long before the Russians came. The stones were believed to have come from St. Lawrence Island or from Siberia. They were so old that some were found in mud or sod in Qissunaq. Joe and Ulric do not know exactly where they came from. Their description of the ingcuk is not matched to the colors we have today. They were considered very old and very valuable. Mary Kokrak (Macani) and Culunagalek, a girl about Joe Friday's age, wore ingcuks to look pretty and most of the women used them to look pretty in those days.