Legendary beginning. There are variations of the following legend, but the ensuing recount will sum up B.B. Torrey’s version as told in Slaves of the Harvest. The origins of the folktale can be traced back to the son of a Unimak Island chief. The son, Igadik, spent his day hunting, fishing, and exploring his island home. The waters were the main source of navigating Igadik’s curiosity. One day, he would attempt to unearth a grand mystery, the birthplace, of a long-appreciated animal to Igadic’s people. Despite the tribe’s extensive acquaintance with the swimming creature, none knew it’s birth home. To the Aleuts, the adult form of the magnificent being magically appeared. To solve the uncertain riddle, Igadik would pursue the mystical animal too far from land; his craft and his fate would soon be decided by a brewing storm’s will.
Gone with the wind. For days raging winds howled, forcing Igadik’s vessel further away from his home. Eventually, the storm would end leaving a lost Igadik buried in fog. Due to obscured sight, the explorer would have to rely on the familiar echoes ringing out to guide his vessel with their murk-piercing sounds. Abruptly, the fog would lift allowing Igadik’s eyes to see land. He proceeded to until “his unbelieving eyes saw [the sight of] so many seals on the beaches that he had to search for a long time to find a place to land” (Torrey, 1983). For a year, Igadik investigated the new land until an increasing wind would allow him to sail homeward.
Nothing lasts forever. The villagers were excited about Igadik’s return. They would celebrate and recount the new legend of his heroic journey. For generations to follow, the tribe kept the “Fur Seal Island” a secret, but later, new explorers would “discover” the islands. The new mighty Russian surveyors were led by a navigator, Gerassium Pribylov, and Russia’s new find was collectively named in his honor the Pribilof Islands. The largest island, St. Paul, was named on the Russian holiday it was founded and is home to exotic birds, reindeer, arctic foxes, but is best known as being home of the Northern Fur Seals. Before the Russian arrival, the island was largely left to the creature, but that would soon change. The Russians would enslave the Aleuts and relocate them to St. Paul to hunt the seals. One might wonder, how can seals be so valuable to lead men to enslave their fellow man?
Reeves, D. (2011). Slice of cherry. New York: Simon Pulse.
Torrey, B. B. (1983). Slaves of the harvest. TDX Corp.