A Celebration of Women Writers

"Koolee Divides the Meat" by Lucy Fitch Perkins (1865-1937)
From: The Eskimo Twins by by Lucy Fitch Perkins (1865-1937) Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom



II
KOOLEE DIVIDES THE MEAT




II
KOOLEE DIVIDES THE MEAT

I

THE first thing that was done after they got the sledge back to the village was to feed the dogs. The dogs were very hungry; they had smelled the fresh meat for a long time without so much as a bite of it, and they had had nothing to eat for two whole days. They jumped about and howled again and got their harnesses dreadfully tangled.

Kesshoo unharnessed them and gave them some bones, and while they were crunching them and quarreling among themselves, Koolee crawled into the igloo and brought out a bowl. The bowl was made of a hollowed-out stone, and it had water in it.

"This is for a charm," said Koolee. "If you each take a sip of water from this bowl my son will always have good luck in spying bears!"

She passed the bowl around, and each person took a sip of the water. When Menie's turn came he took a big, big mouthful, because he wanted to be very brave, indeed, and find a bear every week. But he was in too much of a hurry. The water went down his "Sunday-throat" and choked him! He coughed and strangled and his face grew red. Koolee thumped him on the back.

"That's a poor beginning for a great bear-hunter," she said.

Everybody laughed at Menie. Menie hated to be laughed at. He went away and found Nip and Tup. They wouldn't laugh at him, he knew. He thought he liked dogs better than people anyway.

Nip and Tup were trying to get their noses into the circle with the other dogs, but the big dogs snapped at them and drove them away, so Menie got some scraps and fed them.

Meanwhile Koolee stood by the sledge and divided the meat among her neighbors. First she gave one of the hind legs to the wives of the Angakok, because he always had to have the best of everything. She gave the kidneys to Koko's mother. To each one she gave just the part she had asked for. When each woman had been given her share, Kesshoo took what was left and put it on the storehouse.

The storehouse wasn't really a house at all. It was just a great stone platform standing up on legs, like a giant's table. The meat was placed on the top of it, so the dogs could not reach it, no matter how high they jumped.

II

When the rest of the meat was taken care of, Koolee took the bear's head and carried it into the igloo.

All the people followed her. Then Koolee did a queer thing. She placed the head on a bench, with the nose pointing toward the Big Rock, because the bear had come from that direction. Then she stopped up the nostrils with moss and grease. She greased the bear's mouth, too.

"Bears like grease," she said. "And if I stop up his nose like that bears will never be able to smell anything. Then the hunters can get near and kill them before they know it." You see Koolee was a great believer in signs and in magic. All the other people were too.

She called to the twins, "Come here, Menie and Monnie."

The twins had come in with the others, but they were so short they were out of sight in the crowd. They crawled under the elbows of the grown people and stood beside Koolee.

"Look, children," she said to them, "your grandfather, who is dead, sent you this bear. He wants you to send him something. In five days the bear's spirit will go to the land where your grandfather's spirit lives. What would you like to have the bear's spirit take to your grandfather for a gift?"

"I'll send him the little fish that father carved for me out of bone," said Menie.

He squirmed through the crowd and got it from a corner of his bed and brought it to his mother. She put it on the bear's head.

Monnie gave her a leather string with a lucky stone tied to it. Koolee put that on the bear's head too.

Then she said, "There! In five days' time the bear's spirit will give the shadows of these things to your grandfather. Then we can eat the head, but not until we are sure the bear's spirit has reached the home of the Dead."

"That is well," the Angakok said to the twins, when Koolee had finished. "Your grandfather will be pleased with your presents, I know. Your grandfather was a just man. I knew him well. He always paid great respect to Me. Whenever he brought a bear home he gave me not only a hind leg, but the liver as well! I should not be surprised if he sent the bear this way, knowing how fond I am of bear's liver."

The Angakok placed his hand on his stomach and rolled up his eyes. "But times are not what they once were," he went on. "People care now only for their own stomachs! They would rather have the liver themselves than give it to the Angakok! They will be sorry when it is too late."

He shook his head and heaved a great sigh. Koolee looked at Kesshoo. She was very anxious. Kesshoo went out at once to the storehouse. He climbed to the top and got the liver.

By this time all the people had crawled out of the igloo again, and were ready to carry home their meat. Kesshoo ran to the Angakok and gave him the bear's liver. The Angakok handed it to one of his wives to carry. The other one already had the bear's leg. He said to Kesshoo, "You are a just man, like your father. I know the secrets of the sun, moon, and stars. You know your duty! You shall have your reward." He looked very solemn and waddled away toward his igloo with the two wives behind him carrying the meat. All the rest of the people followed after him and went into their own igloos.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom