“I was born in a canvas tent back in 1953,” Murphy Patterson told me. “My mother told me they had just finished fishing season at the time.”
Patterson, of the Inuit people, was telling me about his life in the far north.
In his village of Narvik, there was no electricity or running water as he grew up, but the area was rich with wildlife. The people of the Narvik village were very poor and only had what they could get from the land, air, and water. Even so, nature provided everything they needed and they were never hungry or cold in the arctic winters.
Patterson and his playmates had to be very creative as they were growing , as they had no toys other than the ones they built with their own hands.
Patterson’s mother would sometimes have a rabbit to cook. She would either roast it or make rabbit soup for the family. After the meal was finished and the all the meat cleaned off the bones, the children would remove the lower jaw from the skull and that became a toy sled.
Or maybe the family would kill a caribou. After the meat was stripped from the bones, the vertebrae flavored soup. From the soup pot, the Inuit children fished out the bones and they became toy airplanes.
The children of Narvik were always very creative – making soccer ball from the skin of an animal and stuffing it with dry grasses from the tundra, or playing marbles with rocks found along the coastline.
Narvik now boasts a population of about 750 people, but when Patterson was growing up there were only about 350.
Life for the Inuit children is very different from how most of us grow up. But for them, it’s just the way it is, and they can’t imagine anything else.