« AnteriorContinuar »
ited their habitations without seeing some engaged in them. One of these our gentlemen saw at Win. ter Island, on an occasion when most of the men were absent from the huts on a sealing excursion, and in this Iligliuk was the chief performer. Be. ing requested to amuse them in this way, she sud. denly unbound her hair, platted it, tied both ends to. gether to keep it out of her way, and then stepping out into the middle of the hut, began to make the most hideous faces that can be conceived, by draw. ing both lips into her mouth, poking forward her chin, squinting frightfully, occasionally shutting one eye, and moving her head from side to side as if her neck had been dislocated. This exhibition, which they call āyõkit-tak-poke, and which is evi. dently considered an accomplishment that few of them possess in perfection, distorts every feature in the most horrible manner imaginable, and would, I think, put our most skilful horse-collar grinners quite out of countenance.
The next performance consists in looking stead. fastly and gravely forward, and repeating the words tăbāk-tabak, kéibó-keibo, kè-bāng.e-nū-toěěk, kebang. enutoeek, ămātămā amatama, in the order in which they are here placed, but each at least four times, and always by a peculiar modulation of the voice, speaking them in pairs as they are coupled above. The sound is made to proceed from the throat in a way much resembling ventriloquism, to which art it is indeed an approach. After the last amatama Tligliuk always pointed with her finger towards her body, and pronounced the word angetkook, steadily retaining her gravity for five or six seconds, and then bursting into a loud laugh, in which she was
joined by all the rest. The women sometimes pro. duce a much more guttural and unnatural sound, repeating principally the word ikkérée-ikkeree, coupling them as before, and staring in such a manner as to make their eyes appear ready to burst out of their sockets with the exertion. Two or more of them will sometimes stand up face to face, and with great quickness and regularity respond to each oth. er, keeping such exact time that the sound appears to come from one throat instead of several. Very few of the females are possessed of this accomplishment, which is called pitkoo-she-rāk-poke, and it is not uncommon to see several of the younger females practising it. A third part of the game, distin. guished by the word keitik-poke, consists only in falling on each knee alternately-a piece of agility which they perform with tolerable quickness, considering the bulky and awkward nature of their dress.
The last kind of individual exhibition was still performed by Iligliuk, to whom in this, as in almost everything else, the other women tacitly acknowledged their inferiority, by quietly giving place to her on every occasion. She now once more came forward, and letting her arms hang down loosely and bending her body very much forward, shook herself with extreme violence, as if her whole frame had been strongly convulsed, uttering at the same time, in a wild tone of voice, some of the unnatu. ral sounds before mentioned.
This being at an end, a new exhibition was com. menced, in which ten or twelve women took a part, and which our gentlemen compared to blind-man's buff. A circle being formed, and a boy despatch
ed to look out at the door of the hut, Iligliuk, stil the principal actress, placed herself in the centre, and after making a variety of guttural noises for about half a minute, shut her eyes and ran about till she had taken hold of one of the others, whose business it then became to take her station in the centre, so that almost every woman in her turn occupied this post; and in her own peculiar way, either by distortion of countenance or other gestures, performed her part in the game.
This continued three quarters of an hour; and, from the precaution of placing a look-out, who was withdrawn when it was over, as well as from some very ex. pressive signs which need not here be mentioned, there is reason to believe that it is usually follow. ed by certain indecencies, with which their hus. bands are not to be acquainted. Kaoongut was present, indeed, on this occasion, but his age seemed to render him a privileged person ; besides which, his own wife did not join in the game.
The most common amusement, however, and to which their husbands made no objection, they per. formed' at Winter Island expressly for our gratifi. cation. The females being collected to the number of ten or twelve, stood in as large a circle as the hut would admit, with Okotook in the centre. He began by a sort of half howling, half singing noise, which appeared as if designed to call the attention of the women, the latter soon commencing the Amna Aya song hereafter described. This they continued without variety, remaining quite still while Okotook walked round within the cir. cle; his body was rather bent forward, his eyes sometimes closed, his arms constantly moving up
and down, and now and then hoarsely vociferating a word or two, as if to increase the animation of the singers, who, whenever he did this, quitted the chorus and rose into the words of the song. At the end of ten minutes they all left off at once, and af. ter one minute's interval commenced a second act precisely similar and of equal duration; Okotook continuing to invoke their muse as before. A third act, which followed this, varied only in his fre. quently, towards the close, throwing his feet up before and clapping his hands together, by which ex. ertion he was thrown into a violent perspiration. He then retired, desiring a young man (who, as we were informed, was the only individual of sev. eral then present thus qualified) to take his place in the centre as master of the ceremonies, when the same antics as before were again gone through. After this description it will scarcely be necessary to remark, that nothing can be poorer in its way than this tedious singing recreation, which, as well as everything in which dancing is concerned, they express by the word mõmēk-poke.
They seem, however, to take great delight in it; and even a number of men, as well as all the children, crept into the hut by degrees to peep at the perform.
The Esquimaux women and children often amuse themselves with a game not unlike our skiprope." This is performed by two women holding the ends of a line, and whirling it regularly round and round, while a third jumps over it in the middle, according to the following order. She commences by jumping twice on both feet, then alter. nately with the right and left, and next four times
with the feet slipped one behind the other, the rope passing once round at each jump. After this she performs a circle on the ground, jumping about half a dozen times in the course of it, which bring. ing her to her original position, the same thing is repeated as often as it can be done without entan. gling the line. One or two of the women perform. ed this with considerable agility and adroitness, considering the clumsiness of their boots and jackets, and seemed to pride themselves, in some degree, on the qualification. A second kind of this game consists in two women holding a long rope by its ends, and whirling it round in such a manner, over the heads of two others standing close together near the middle of the bight, that each of these shall jump over it alternately. The art, therefore, which is indeed considerable, depends more on those whirling the rope than on the jumpers, who are, however, obliged to keep exact time, in order to be ready for the rope passing under their feet.
The whole of these people, but especially the women, are fond of music, both vocal and instru. mental. Some of them might be said to be pas. sionately so, removing their hair from off their ears, and bending their heads forward, as if to catch the sounds more distinctly, whenever we amused them in this manner. Their own music is entirely vocal, unless, indeed, the drum and tamba. rine before mentioned be considered an exception.
The voices of the women are soft and feminine, and, when singing with the men, are pitched an oc. tave higher than theirs. They have most of them so far good ears, that, in whatever key a song is commenced by one of them, the rest will always join