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The name of the informant has been changed. This story took place in Arvilinghaurmiut, which is in the Pelly Bay area of Kitikmeot, in the Canadian Arctic.
I first went to the Canadian Arctic in November 1972. It was my intention to remain there for about a year and then move on. I left over ten years later and I still miss the friendships, loyalties, and sheer excitement of living amidst the homeland of the Canadian Inuit. Through my work in the Arctic I enjoyed conversations with many Inuit, particularly the elderly. One such conversation took place on June 23, 1978.
I had heard of Old Elizabeth, an Elder Inuk,(1) but thought she had died several years previously. I was mistaken, though, and on June 23, 1978 while I was staying in a particular settlement, Elizabeth's grandson and his partner came to retrieve me. "Elizabeth wishes to speak with you." Needless to say, I was surprised. I thought I knew everyone in this settlement. I considered it a great honour that one so respected throughout Kitikmeot(2) would even consider having a conversation with me.
Her grandson took me to the home of his father. I was invited into a small bedroom, simple and full of light. Sitting up in the bed was Old Elizabeth. Elizabeth, one of the oldest Inuit alive, was about 89 years old. She welcomed me to her home and quietly dismissed her grandson, but …