|I met John Killulark in Baker Lake, in 2002, where he invited me to his home. We dined on traditional Inuit food such as patqut (bone marrow and cartilage inside a caribou stomach) while he told me of his life.
John was born in 1935 by Aniguk Lake, west of Baker Lake. "I remember as a boy in the spring fishing through the ice. I would yell whenever I caught a trout. At that time of the year you could fish well into the night because of the long days. When I grew up I began hunting 'tuktu,' caribou. When they crossed the rivers you could kill them with only a .22 caliber rifle. It had to be a head shot at a fairly close range in the canoe but you could even kill a bull like that."
In 1952 John's father died suddenly. "Dad was still a young man when it happened. He was a shaman and at the time had converted to Christianity. I know that had something to do with his death. Shamanism is very powerful and to be feared." John was 16 years old. "That was the only time I was really hungry. We lived on fish for the entire year. There was nothing else we could catch or kill on the land."
John's greatest joy is to be on the land, hunting and fishing. He spends much of his time passing his knowledge on to others. "It is less stressful on the land, more peaceful. Even now the land still teaches me things." Although not a shaman, John is proud of his heritage. Wearing the shaman fox fur hat his wife, Hannah, sewed for him, John Killulark represents that mysterious world that has existed for thousands of years in the Arctic.