The Tornit

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In olden times the Inuit were not the only tribe living in the Eskimo country. Around Cumberland Sound there lived some very large, strong people called the Tornit. They were on good terms with the Inuit and shared the same hunting ground, but lived in separate villages. They were much taller than the Inuit and had very long legs and arms, but their eyes were not as good.

They were so strong that they could lift large boulders which were far too heavy for the Inuit, though the latter were much stronger in those days than they now are. Some of the stones which they used to throw are lying about the country still, and the toughest of the men now living cannot lift them, much less swing and throw them. Some of their stone houses also remain. They generally lived in these houses all winter, and did not cover them with snow to make them warmer.

The principal part of their winter dress was a long, wide coat of deerskins, reaching to the knees and trimmed with leather straps. They ate walrus, deer, and seal, and when they went sealing in the winter they fastened the lower edge of their coat to the snow by means of pegs. Under the coat they carried a small lamp, over which to melt snow when they were thirsty, and over which to roast some of the seal meat. They sat around a hole in the ice and watched for their prey, and when a seal blew in the hole they whispered, “I shall stab it.” Sometimes in their eagerness they forgot the lamp and upset it as they threw the harpoon, and thus got burned.

Their strength was so great that they could hold a harpooned walrus as easily as the Inuit could hold a seal. These weaker men did not like to play ball with them, for they did not realize how rough they were and often hurt their playfellows severely. This the playfellows tried to take in good part, and the two lived on friendly terms except for one thing. For some reason the Tornit did not make kayaks for themselves, although they saw how convenient they were for hunting when the ice broke up in the spring. Every little while they would steal a boat from the Inuit, who did not dare fight for their property because the thieves were so much stronger.

This rankled in the hearts of the Inuit and they would talk among themselves and threaten to take vengeance on the robbers. They debated what they should do either to get rid of the Tornit or to make them cease their depredations. This state of affairs had gone on till the Inuit were at fever heat, when one day a young Tornit took the boat of a young Inuit without asking, and in sealing with it, he ran it into some blocks of floating ice which stove in the bottom. The owner nursed his wrath until night, and then when the thief was asleep he slipped into the tent and thrust his knife into the Tornit’s neck.

The Tornit tribe had been aware of the growing dislike, and when at last one of the Inuit took revenge, they feared that others might do the same and in similar secret fashion; so they decided to leave the country. In order to deceive their neighbors, they cut off the tails of their long coats and tied their hair in bunches that stuck out behind to look like a strange people as they fled.

Then they stole away, and the Inuit were so glad they were gone that they made no effort to pursue them.

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