Distant Time Stories as Told By My Grandfather–One Song, Many Dances

One Song, Many Dances

An old Inupiaq story as recalled by Ronald Brower, Sr.

Taimaniguuq – A long time ago, families from villages used to have their own known places for good hunting and fishing to feed their family and to share with others in the village, the summers gathering of food. In one village were many people that lived close to each other, except for one old man, who lived just outside of the village and seldom spoke to the others. He was known to have a big drum that would make him look like a dwarf as he sang a song and drum. It is said his drumming seemed to beckon people to dance as they never had before.

There came a time when food started to get scarce and the gatherers of game from the village started to hassle others from different villages and from within their village. No one was starving, but game animals were getting scarcer and people started to use other peoples hunting and gathering places without permission. Soon they began to kill one another for food and many had died as a result.

As things got worst and game got harder to come by, the old man suddenly made an appearance with his big drum in the middle of the village and called out for all the people to gather in the qargi, the men’s gathering place. When all were present, he began talking about how there was little game but people were not starving as their ancestors had in times before. No one had died from starvation but too many were dead because of fighting over hunting and gathering places. This must come to a stop. And people must work together again if they are going to survive and live together as their ancestors had from time immemorial.

So he began to drum. His drum made him look so small…yet it was so beckoning… urging each one to dance. As he drummed the same song over several times more, more people came to dance feeling great joy each time they danced. He did this several times over. And as he sang the same song again and again, the people were humbled by a great joy and forgave each other and made new dances to show their new found happiness. So from one song, many were the dances that pulled the people joyfully together, with compassion, humility, love and respect for each other. They were human beings again with a sense of purpose and identity.

2008 logo art designed by Michaela Murphrey (age 13) from Fairbanks, Alaska.

Festival Of Native Arts


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