My father quieted me. I had been humming and there was the sound of my boots crunching on the snow and ice. I became silent and my father pointed his rifle. In the distance, sunning on an ice floe, was a fat, slick seal with its belly full. Father fired and then through a line out to catch the skin of the seal before it flopped into the ocean. Father pulled the line and I ran forward and pulled the heavy seal onto the solid ice.
“Very good, Vatu.” My father looked proud.
I was a girl in a family of girls. I was being trained to hunt. Mother was home sewing Caribou skins and shoes along with my two sisters. I was the oldest and the one assigned to follow father. To learn his ways.
I dragged the seal over a mile to the dog sled. We stopped the dogs where the snow became soft. They barked and shook snow from their fur. They were hungry. We had old seal meat to feed them but they wanted fresh seal.
“No, no, doggies. Dried seal meat for you. Plump seal for the family.” I fed each dog and they feasted.
“I will make you a great hunter,” my father said.
My father frowned. “You’re right. You must learn the white man’s teaching. Our way is dying. What will you be?”
“I will study our people and preserve our culture. My teacher calls it anthropology. I intend to go to Toronto. I will learn. I will help our language.”
My father laughed. “The white man says we have fifty words for snow.” Father laughed again. “We have many more than that.”
“This is true,” I said. “But is that strange. What we call snow can save our lives. Besides, the whites have as many words for money. We aren’t so strange.”
“Very wise, Vatu. Now let’s see what your mother has made for the store.”
“And we will eat the fat seal?”
“Oh, yes. We will feast.”
I sat on the sleigh and father pushed off running to keep pace with the fed dogs. He then stood on the sleigh and I felt puffs of his cold breath on my cheeks.
“Vatu. Great Hunter. And soon to be an anthropologist.” My father and I were happy. We sped home. Our life was simple but beautiful. Those who lived in the cities were unhappy. They drank. They committed suicide. But in the vast expanse of cold and the warmth of my family, I was happy. For now. A city like Toronto scared me. But as a great hunter, you face what you fear.