While working to shape the story around Never Alone, the team has been blessed with the opportunity to hear a number of Iñupiat narratives that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Today, we share with you the story of Kunuuksaayuka as told by Robert Nasruk Cleveland and collected in the Stories of the Black River People, about a young boy and his journey to discover the source of a savage blizzard.
It is said that a boy and his parent lived alone without any knowledge of anyone nearby. The son, whose name was Kunuuksaayuka, was old enough to hunt and had grown capable of doing many things. They were not in need of food. The son was able to hunt and there were many caribou. Thus was the life of the woman and her son.
One winter day, as they lived in their usual manner, eating caribou as before, there came a blizzard. The weather did not clear up as one blizzard was followed by yet another blizzard. It is said that with each gust of wind, the powdery snow blew in every direction. Following that, it stopped briefly and then became windy all over again.
It was difficult to see anything in the blizzard. The woman’s son was unable to hunt caribou. They began to run out of food. Although Kunuuksaayuka was a good hunter during clear weather, the blizzardy weather simply was not a time to hunt. It was dangerous to travel at any distance. All one could see was a mass of white swirling snow.
Kunuuksaayuka waited day after day for the weather to clear until finally one day, he wondered, “What, oh what, is causing the weather to be like this?” Saying this, he dressed himself properly and went outside. He walked, facing the wind, and began to walk upriver along the bends and steep undercut sections of the riverbank. Meanwhile, the wind blew the snow strongly in the blizzard.
He continued on his way up the river and he hadn’t gone far when he noticed a spot further up the river that wasn’t as blizzardy. It was rather bright and the weather appeared to be clear beyond it. He approached this spot and saw that for some reason, the blizzard seemed to be originating from a small tundra meadow. He looked around carefully as he walked closer to it because he was curious to know what might be causing it. Since light seemed to be filtering through the swirling mass of snow, he grew even more curious and as he looked carefully around, he found what looked like a person, a man, apparently working hard on the flat tundra. He noticed that the man was indeed working hard. It is said that the man used something to mash the snow until it was loose, then he shoveled it off the ground. Each time he did this, a gust of wind came and blew the loose snow in the direction of Kunuuksaayuka’s home. Kunuuksaayuka saw this and said to himself, “So that’s the one who does it.” He had found the source of the blizzard.
Stay tuned for the rest of Kunuuksaayuka’s adventure!