Eskimo Heritage Reader 14
Asila, the Trouble-Maker
Long ago on Little Diomede Island, there was a young man named Asila. He was a bad child. He was not respectful. He was not obedient. His parents tried to change him. They scolded him. They warned the other people. But he never changed. When he became a young man, he was still a trouble-maker.
In those days, the shamen gathered together in the spring. They met in the qagri to urge the whales to come to their hunters. They put out all the lights. In the dark, they worked their magic.
All the skinboat owners brought dishes to the qagri. Dishes filled with good food--berries! fish! hmmmm! There was no tea or coffee. There was no white man's food. They put the dishes on the floor near the opening to the qagri. When they put out the lights, that bad one, Asila, would come in and eat!
There was a time in the spring when the shamen met in the qagri. Asila and his friends were playing outside. He said, "Let's go into the qagri. We can go and eat the food. You should see all that good food!" He talked them into going with him.
They came up to the qagri. The tunnel was barred. No one could get through. Asila pulled on the bars, pulled hard. He got one off, then another. The boys slipped into the tunnel. Asila was leading. The others followed. Inside they heard the shamen singing. They waited in the tunnel for the lights to go out.
Inside the qagri, the men took their turns. Each urged the whale to come to the island. Finally, an old blind shaman rose for his turn. He said to the others, "A devil is coming in here." The others cried, "Do something! Try to do something!"
He began to do his magic. He said, "I will work against this devil."
Down in the tunnel the walls started to close in on the boys. The tunnel grew narrower. Now they could only fit sideways. They could not turn around. The walls pushed them into the qagri. They did not want to go, but they were pushed.
Asila was first. He was pushed up, up through the opening into the qagri. He reached the edge, pushed from below. There they slipped something forbidden into his rear end to humiliate him. Suddenly, he dropped. The tunnel grew larger. The boys fell out.
Later, Asila said that it was his idea. He claimed that he had no father to guide him, which was true. In this way, he saved the others from punishment.
After this, Asila was changed. He grew to be a kind and generous man. He became a rich hunter. He had his own skinboat and caught many whales.
One spring day, he was whaling with the other hunters. He came forward in his skinboat and harpooned a whale. The rawhide thong went tight. It snapped around his neck and took his head off. The others watched as his head sank into the water.
They brought him home without a head. It is very sad to have a body without its head.
by Alice Kayouktuk of Little Diomede