Nick Jans - The Last Night Breaking - Maniilaq Part 3
Type of spiritual experience
A description of the experience
Nick Jans - The Last Night Breaking
Now he travelled up and down the Kobuk like an Old Testament prophet, covering huge distances by foot, kayak, and dogsled, defying local shamans, making bold predictions.
Often he'd pull into a camp, settle in, and deliberately break whatever deadly taboo presented itself--scraping animal hides during the summer, or mixing beluga muqtuq (blubber) with berries in the same meal. People watched incredulously and sometimes fled in panic, sure that he and his children, who often accompanied him, would be struck dead. When he'd appear again, the next day, healthy and unharmed, they feared him all the more. It was as if they'd seen someone fall from a great height and simply walk away.
The elders insist that Maniilaq was doing far more than quashing empty superstitions.
Both Charlie Sheldon and Kahkik are careful to point our that people did die from taboo violations before Maniilaq interceded. Mark Cleveland makes the same point when I ask him if he thinks Maniilaq changed what happened or just what the people believed.
"'What happened," Mark says emphatically. "Before, someone would die. Maniilaq changed that. But even now, I never work with skins in summertime. Not many people here will. After fishing is done, it's okay again, we start sewing."
"But if Maniilaq made it all right, why follow a superstition?"
Mark pauses, then grins like an elf. "Just making sure."