Friday, June 19, 2015

The Old Woman

Wine Train California Watch Alaska Native Corp.
Photo taken in 1917
The Gwich’in tribe had decided, and once a resolute decision is made, there would be no change.

Leader Ti’kto’ma approached the old woman with tribal leaders behind him.  The old woman huddled close to the fire, but continued to chew the hide of a seal, softening it.

”Old grandmother!  It is time to leave you in this camp for you to take your final journey!”  Ti’kto’ma shouted down at the elderly woman, where her youngest granddaughter wrapped her arms around the woman.

Old Woman, whose worth now was less than bark on a tree, nodded in submission.  The young girl begged for Grandmother’s life, her bruised deformed face twisted in tears.  Ti’kto’ma kicked her away from the fire.  “The fire is wasted on you!  Return to your mother…she must have some use for you, Mongrel Child.”

Old Woman gazed as the tribe walked off in the distance, clutching her bag and fur scarf tightly. In a day where dusk came as soon as the sun disappeared, she was left in the abandoned camp. She settled her elderly bones onto icy snow, waiting for the cold to take her.

As night crept in and cold settled over her, sounds grew louder in the forest.  Old Woman reached out, finding her grand-daughter.

“Let us both float off in the final journey together,” Mongrel Child whispered.  Old Woman wrapped her shawl and scarf around the girl, and they settled into a final night's sleep.


Elephant’s Child has provided the bold underlined words as a challenge for bloggers to stir the pot and produce any genre using those words.  This week there are six and another six words to play with as you choose.  Pop on over to her site, by clicking on her moniker above.

Have you heard of a book Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal and Survival" written by Velma Wallis? The tribe name is true and this ancient custom is accurate.  The story has truth in it as well.  After discovering "two old women" left behind, the tribe finds them well, healthy, and with a huge collection of dried foods.  The Gwich'in discontinued this tradition. This book is a worthy read, simplistic yet moving.

Map of books set in Alaska by Alaska authors on andreareadsamerica.wordpress.com
More on this history and legends

22 comments:

  1. What a way of ending your life. It is amazing how it was accepted. That sounds like an interesting story about the Old Woman. The will to live is incredible isn't it?

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    1. As long as there is life, people will try to hold onto it.

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  2. Susan, how clever, using those six words woven into such a beautiful story. I must obtain this book.

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    1. Why I bought it on Amazon, I am not sure. Maybe it was cheaper and I threw it "in my cart" along with books I wanted.

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  3. That is quite the way to go. Never knew about the story of the old women

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    1. Hope you find and read the story...it showed a lot.

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  4. You startled me with this tale. I read a short book in someone else's library once, of two old women turned out simultaneously by the tribe. Although not friends they became helpmates, survived the winter fishing and built up a decent life. When their tribe camped close by years later the old women did not seek them, but one woman's granddaughter found her by an interesting instinct. Eventually the old women allowed the tribe to reconcile to them, but never traveled with them again. It was one of several old tribe tales written down by a modern Intuit. I wish I could remember the name of the book, but will look when I'm next visiting my friend.

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    1. I just realized "Two Old Women" in your accompanying picture is the book. What a compelling story.

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    2. I knew that of all comments, you might be one who has read this interesting book. Compelling story--I couldn't put it down.

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  5. It seems to me these people lived their entire lives in survival mode especially in a place like Alaska, 100 years ago. PS - I nominated you as a creative blogger. I hope you don't mind. I posted more details in my most recent blog post.

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    1. I've gone to your site and sent off some invites of my own. Thanks!

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  6. Moving and beautiful. And another book to lust after. Thank you.

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    1. It is a fascinating look at a culture that has changed, hopefully. I am afraid I would be on the ice flow or frozen.
      I hope you get an opportunity to read it.

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  7. Hi Susan,

    Very thoughtfully done and I like how you incorporated that book for inspiration. A peaceful weekend to you, Susan.

    Gary

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    1. It is an excellent book with a clear message about honoring the knowledge and experience of the elderly.
      As always, it is a pleasure to see your name.

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  8. This is beautifully writen but sad.
    I've read the story of the two old women who were left to die but they recalled the work of their childhood and were not only able to survive but saved the tribe by having stored supplies for their return.

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    1. I love that part. The tribe returns, starving and desperate, only to find that these two old women had more than enough to save the ingrates. Isn't it perfect?

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  9. Yikes, what a cruel way to live! But I like the happy ending story better. That's why youth is wasted on the young. The older generation has the skills to survive.

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    1. So very true. My grandparents were born came from a generation who lived off the land. They passed this knowledge on to the next generation. But I think technology interrupted it all.

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  10. I've heard of this ancient custom, it wasn't only the Gwinch'in tribe who practised it. I haven't heard of those books though; I'll see if I can get copies to read.

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!