the Old Man Carver
Inuit Co-operative Federations play an important part in life in
the North. In some settlements in the North people rely on them
for everything from water delivery and garbage disposal to the buying
of carving for resale in the South. This story by Ipellie, which
first appeared in Nunatsiaq News, gives some idea of how ritualized
buying day at the Co-op has become for many old Inuit carvers.
was now an old man and took three times as long as any young Inuk
to get from one point to another. Almost every week, he would get
up from his small carving studio at home and start walking out to
the Co-op where he sold at least a half a dozen carvings he had
finished during the week. He hung the bag of carvings over his shoulder
and started out the door, his walking stick leading the way for
is the day I will get the upper hand of the deal with the Co-op
manager. I have no doubt that he will fall in love with the carving
I finished today," he said as he closed the door behind himself.
the way to the Co-op, Nipikti would stop several times to rest his
tired old legs by sitting on the same rocks he had sat on for the
last twenty years or so.
Hi, Ojagajaak, it feels good to rest on you," he would say
to the first rock, as if the rock was an old friend of his. "These
legs of mine are a little weaker than last week, so I will have
to sit on you for an extra five minutes if you do not mind."
he sat to rest on Ojagajaak and looked across the land where he
had lived as a young man. That is the place where he had hunted
the good animals of the land. That is where he had taken care of
his wife and family when they were growing up. "Those were
good times of the past," he thought, "times when carvings
like these were toys and tokens to us Inuit."
got up slowly and continued on to the Co-op where he would get the
money to support his family. The Co-op was still quite far away.
I had my way, I would prefer to carve the stones and ivory to make
toys for my children, and hunt the animals like I used to. I wasn't
such a bad hunter in those days," Nipikti said to himself.
never thought I would be living off the very carvings I used to
make only to keep my children happy."
finally came to the rock where he sat to rest the second time along
the way to the Co-op and said, "How are you today Ojagakaluk?
I have come again to rest on you. I am an old man now, you know."
sat on Ojagakaluk and took enough rest there to make it to the next
rock. "I shall see you again on my way back. Just make sure
the bulldozer doesn't push you under before then," Nipikti
shouted back to the second rock as he slowly started walking on.
he came to the third rock, he sat down and said, "You know,
Ojagakutaaq, you are probably the most comfortable rock I have ever
sat on in my life, I must say I will certainly miss you the day
they remove you from this spot to make way for the new road. You
have been a good rock to me and I must thank you in case they start
building the road while I am at the Co-op."
then got up to walk the last leg of the trip to the local Co-op
and said to himself that it was time to think about how much he
would persuade the Co-op manager to pay him for his carvings. Especially
for the good one he finished earlier that day.
should be able to sell the good carving for $150 easily," he
said. "I'm sure there isn't any other carving this week that
was done any better than this one."
he got to the Co-op, Nipikti took the six carvings out of the bag
and laid them on the desk for the manager to look at.
manager picked up the carvings one by one and looked them over carefully.
When he came to the carving Nipikti had done that day, he immediately
offered Nipikti $120 for it.
stood leaning on his walking stick and counted on $150 as planned.
Nipikti knew by experience that the carving was worth that much
or even more, "$150," he said.
manager looked up at Nipikti's face, then picked up the carving
in question and mused over the fine detail of the work Nipikti had
done. "Okay," he finally said, "I'll give you $130
looked at the manager's face and thought about the last offer for
$130. "If you think you are going to play games with me, you
might as well be prepared to do it for the rest of the day. I am
not going to play that long," he said in Inuktitut.
manager clearly understood that Nipikti was not about to change
his original asking price of $150. He knew that the price was right
for the carving. But he decided to try once more to buy the carving
for less than that. "$140," he said.
just stood there and cleared his throat, then said for the last
time, "$150". And with that, he tapped the top of the
desk with his right hand. It was a sign that he meant business.
that moment, the manager decided to give up trying to persuade the
old carver to say yes to what he wanted and agreed to pay the $150
he was asking for.
had won the battle this time around. He took the money for the carvings
he'd brought in and went out the door to begin his journey back
home with his walking stick in hand and money in his pocket to support
the family for the next few weeks. He looked across the land and
saw that the three rocks where he sat to rest each week were still
there. No one had started to build the road yet. And he just smiled
and said to himself that it was good.
had better make sure that they do not bulldoze my rocks away. The
way I see it, I am sure to win my case over that too," he said
for the last time, and he slowly moved toward home where he would
start the next carving.
the old man carver lives on.