Supunger's Tale


        58919-N (#11)

Friday,  May 4th, 1866 ... some four years ago one of the men of the Pelly Bay natives in whose village we are encamped, whose name is Su-pung-er, visited Kee-it-tung (King Williams Land) & passes from one end (the south end) to the other (the N. end) in summer when the snow was entirely off the ground. He was accompanied by his father's brother. Their object was to earch for things that once belonged to the white men who had died on & in the neighborhood of King William's Land.

Through Too-koo-li-too and E-bier-bing as interpreters Su-pung-er  has told me many interesting incidents relative to this journey. Last evening at a late hour this native was in my Igloo where I took up Dr Rae's chart & by the aid of Nuk-er-zhoo, Su-pung-er told me of this journey & some of its incidents but I purposely delayed making any extended note of it for I wished to have my good interpreter (Too-koo-li-too) present to facilitate my fully comprehending all that Su-pung-er had to say about the matter.

... I then asked Too-koo-li-too to have Su-pung-er describe that place on the ground he & his unkle [sic] found when near the North extreme of King Williams Land & wh. had attracted their particular attention. He said that near the sea ice was a large tupik of same kind of material as that now covering the habitation of E-bier-bing & Too-koo-li-too ... (after the dome of his Igloo fell in last evening, [Ebierbing] spread a canvas over the walls so that he has a Kong-mong (Half tupik & half Igloo.))

A little way inland from this tupik which was not erect but prostrate he & his uncle came to place where they found a skeleton of a Kob-lu-na (white man) some parts of it having clothing on while other parts were without any it having been torn off by wolves or foxes. Near this skeleton they saw a stick standing erect wh. had been broken off - the part broken off lying close by. From the appearance both he & his uncle thought the stick, or rather small pillar or post, had been broken off by a Ni-noo (polar bear).o On taking hold of that part of the wooden pillar wh. was erect they found it firmly fixed - could not move it a bit. But what attracted their attention the most on arriving at this pillar was a stone - or rather several large flat stones lying flat on the sandy ground & tight to-gether. After much labor one of these stones was loosened from its carefully fixed position & by great exertions of both nephew & uncle the stone was lifted up a little at one edge just sufficient that they could see that another tier of large flat stones firmly & tightly fitted together was underneath. This discouraged them in their purpose wh. was to remove the stones to see what had been buried there for they was [sic] quite sure that something valuable was underneath. On my asking Su-pung-er to take a long handled knife which I handed to him, & make out on the snow about the shape & size of the spot covered by these flat stones, he at once did as I desired - & the spot marked was some 4 feet long & 2 feet broad. The pillar of wood stood by one side of it -not at the end but on one side. The part of the stick or pillar standing was about 4 feet high as indicated by Su-pung-er on my person & thewhole height on replacing the part broken off, about six feet from the ground. As nephew & uncle were in want of wood they spent a good deal of time in digging the part erect loose. It was deeply set in the sand. The shape of this stick or pillar was a peculiar one to these natives. The part in the ground was square. Next to the ground was a big ball & above this to within a foot or so of the top the stick was round. The top part was about 3 or 4 inches square. No part of it was painted - all natural wood color.

As soon as Su-pung-er had completed his description about the stones telling how carefully they had been placed so as to make it impossible for any water to get between them, Too-koo-li-too said to me with a joyful face, "I guess I can tell just what that is for - for papers!" And, said I, I think so too. - Time & again Su-pung-er said that the stones were just as if they were tied together. My conclusions are that the stones were laid in cement & that they cover a vault of the precious documents of the Franklin Expedition or the greater part of them.1

Su-pung-er & his uncle found what Too-koo-li-too says are many graves of the Kob-lu-nas not far from the place just described. From the description of Su-pung-er, as given to-day with Rae's map before us, he & uncle saw a great pile of clothing further N. on King Williams Land than the graves - & at another place saw a great many tin things (canisters). Previous to starting on this journey they saw a big pile of clothing at Cape Sabine N the head of Wellington Strait. The large tent seen, & the flat stones convering something that they sought to get but couldn't was above that is N. of the big or long bay wh is south of Ross's "Point Victory". They saw very many rein-deer in various parts of King Williams Land except at the extreme N. point of it. There game was very scarce & for this reason could not prolong their search along down the W. side of the Island as far as they desired. The land very low & sandy at the Northern part of the island & down as far as they followed the coast on W. side wh. was to Back's Bay. The ice very heavy & very much broken wherever they could see when to the westward & northward at the upper part of the island while at the same time the channel bet[ween] King Williams Land & Boothia was clear of ice. No water to be seen at all on the N & W sides - all ice there. No Innuits live that side - saw no Musk oxen.

Monday, June 4:1866

An interview with Su-pung-er who with his family (natives of Pelly Bay) came with us keeping with our company most of the way from Lat. 68F8-00-00 N, Long. 88F8-17'-15" W (where I & my party met them) to this place.

3h-00 P.M.  Present Su-pung-er, myself, my good Too-koo-li-too & the widow Mam-mark.

Su-pung-er had just told us that when he & his uncle were on Ki-ik-tung (as the natives denominate King Williams Land) they saw something that was a great curiosity to them & they could not make out what it was for. From his description of it, Too-koo-li-too suggests that it was a cook stove - it was very heavy & all iron. It had on one side or end a great many small pieces of iron close enough together to make it look something like spears - fish spears. By his language & symbolizing, these pieces of iron can be none other than a grate in the stove for burning hard coal. There were several heavy Oot-koo-seeks (kettles) with handles or bales. Too-koo-li-too has asked Su-pung-er why he did not get these kettles. He answers that he & uncle had as much of other things as they could carry & these Oot-koo-seeks were very heavy. Su-pung-er himself had 3 Boats oars & a mast besides some smaller articles that he found.

The place where this curiosity (stove) was, was close by the large tu-pik (tent). The tent they found was close by the coast above Back's Bay, not far from Victory Point as Su-pung-er has shown on the chart that I placed before him.

A little back (inland) from the tent, was where his uncle 1st found a large piece of wood - a post or pillar sticking up & this drew his uncle's attention to something by it. The pillar was broken off. They both thought it had been broken off by a Ni-noo. This post or pillar was sticking upright in the ground & was beside some flat stones that were very tight together. They thought there must be something covered up by these stones & they tried very hard to get one loose. There was a hole near one end that appeared to have been made by some strong wild animal. After trying to raise one of these stones & failing they went back to where the tupik was. After a while they concluded to go & make other attempts to raise some of the stones where the pillar was found. At last they were successful in raising enough of the stones to see what they covered up. They found a hole of the depth from the feet up to the navel & of a length more than a man's height & wider than the width of a man's shoulders & this was all nicely walled with flat stones placed one above another, flatwise. In this vault they found a clasp knife, a skeleton bone of a man's leg & a human head (skull). There was much water, mud & sand at the bottom of the vault. The sand had been carried in by water, as they thought, running in at the hole that had been made by the wild animal on one side of the vault. Near this vault they saw parts of a human skeleton with fragments of clothing on the limbs. There was no head about these skeleton bones & Su-pung-er & his uncle concluded that the same wild animal that had made the hole in the vault had taken these skeleton bones out of the vault & dragged them where he & his uncle saw them.

Su-pung-er had on this page at my desire just been marking out with my pen the vault covered with stones. It is a very rude draft as Nuk-er-zhoo (who happened to come in at the time Su-pung-er was making it) placed his finger on this plan before the ink had dried thus defacing it. I will have Su-pung-er make another & then proceed to describe it.

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