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intelligibly nasal, in consequence of an imperfect development of the palatine bones leaving a gap in the roof of the mouth.”
Whatever may be the abundance sometimes en. joyed by these people, and whatever the maladies occasioned by their too frequent abuse of it, it is certain that they occasionally suffer very severely from the opposite extreme. A remarkably intelli. gent woman informed Captain Lyon, that two years ago some Esquimaux arrived at Igloolik from a place near Akkoolee, bringing information that, du. ring a very grievous famine, one party of men had fallen upon another and killed them; and that they afterward subsisted on their flesh, while in a frozen state, but never cooked or even thawed it. This horrible account was soon after confirmed by Too. lemak on board the Fury; and though he was ev. idently uneasy at our having heard the story, and conversed upon it with reluctance, yet, by means of our questions, he was brought to name, upon his fingers, five individuals who had been killed upon this occasion. Of the fact, therefore, there can be no doubt; but it is certain, also, that we ourselves scarcely regarded it with greater horror than those who related it; and the occurrence may be consid. ered similar to those dreadful instances on record, even among civilized nations, of men devouring one another, in wrecks or boats, when rendered desperate by the sufferings of actual starvation.
The ceremony of crying, which has before been mentioned as practised after a person's death, is not, however, altogether confined to those melan. choly occasions, but is occasionally adopted in
cases of illness, and that of no very dangerous kind. The father of a sick person enters the apart. ment, and, after looking at him a few seconds with. out speaking, announces by a kind of low sob his preparation for the coming ceremony. At this signal every other individual present composes his features for crying, and the leader of the chorus then setting up a loud and piteous howl, which lasts about a minute, is joined by all the rest, who shed abundant tears during the process. So decidedly is this a matter of form, unaccompanied by any feel. ing of sorrow, that those who are not relatives shed just as many tears as those that are; to which may be added, that in the instances which we saw there was no real occasion for crying at all. It must, therefore, be considered in the light of a cer. emony of condolence, which it would be either indecorous or unlucky to omit.
I have already given several instances of the lit. tle care these people take in the interment of their dead, especially in the winter season; it is certain, however, that this arises from some superstitious notion, and particularly from the belief that any heavy weight upon the corpse would have an inju. rious effect upon the deceased in a future state of existence; for even in the summer, when it would be an easy matter to secure a body from the depredations of wild animals, the mode of burial is not essentially different. The corpse of a child observed by Lieutenant Palmer, he describes “ as being laid in a regular but shallow grave, with its head to the northeast. It was decently dressed in a good deerskin jacket, and a sealskin prepared without the hair was carefully placed as a cover to
the whole figure, and tucked in on all sides. The body was covered with flat pieces of limestone, which, however, were so light that a fox might ea. sily have removed them. Near the grave were four little separate piles of stones, not more than a foot in height, in one of which we noticed a piece of red cloth and a black silk handkerchief, in a second a pair of child's boots and mittens, and in each of the others a whalebone pot. The face of the child looked unusually clean and fresh, and a few days could only have elapsed since its de. cease.
These Esquimaux do not appear to have any idea of the existence of One Supreme Being, nor indeed can they be said to entertain any notions on this subject which may be dignified with the name of Religion. Their superstitions, which are numer. ous, have all some reference to the preternatural agency of a number of toorngów or spirits, with whom, on certain occasions, the Angetkooks pretend to hold mysterious intercourse, and who, in various and distinct ways, are supposed to preside over the destinies of the Esquimaux. On particular occa. sions of sickness or want of food, the Angetkooks contrive, by means of a darkened hut, a peculiar modulation of the voice, and the uttering of a va. riety of unintelligible sounds, to persuade their countrymen that they are descending to the lower regions for this purpose, where they force the spirits to communicate the desired information. The superstitious reverence in which these wizards are held, and a considerable degree of ingenuity in their mode of performing their mummery, prevent the detection of the imposture, and secure im.
plicit confidence in these absurd oracles. Some account of their ideas repecting death, and of their belief in a future state of existence, has already been introduced in the course of the foregoing pages, in the order of those occurrences which furnished us with opportunities of observing them.