Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shit Knife Survival: A Story for Our Times

From Discover magazine:

The Inuit didn’t fear the cold; they took advantage of it. During the 1950s the Canadian government forced the Inuit into settlements. A family from Arctic Bay told me this fantastic story of their grandfather who refused to go. The family, fearful for his life, took away all of his tools and all of his implements, thinking that would force him into the settlement. But instead, he just slipped out of an igloo on a cold Arctic night, pulled down his caribou and sealskin trousers, and defecated into his hand. As the feces began to freeze, he shaped it into the form of an implement. And when the blade started to take shape, he put a spray of saliva along the leading edge to sharpen it. That’s when what they call the “shit knife” took form. He used it to butcher a dog. Skinned the dog with it. Improvised a sled with the dog’s rib cage, and then, using the skin, he harnessed up an adjacent living dog. He put the shit knife in his belt and disappeared into the night.

To hear the story on TED (and to learn a bit more about the extinction of human diversity).


Chas S. Clifton said...

I have heard this tale -- but I have also heard it dismissed as an Arctic tall tale designed to be told to wide-eyed greenhorns.

Clearly, there needs to be a "Mythbusters" episode.

PBurns said...

Yes, the fellow telling the tale pretty much cops to the fact that he's pretty sure it's .... well bullshit seems inappropriate, so how about walrus poop or moose droppings. Still, a nice allegory for what he's talking about -- the fact that as cultures disappear, we are losing our knowledge of how to "get it done" any other way. This guy is a little *too* focused on the drugs of indigenous people for my tastes, however. That "100 ways to get high the jungle" is the LAST one I think most folks need to read :)