Brother's Keeper

Updated: February 3, 2003, 12:26 PM ET
By Eric Adelson | ESPN The Magazine
A caribou stands apart from its herd on the treeless, endless white permafrost just south of the Arctic Circle. A boy, bundled in sheepskin, watches from a distance. Jordin Tootoo quickly and silently squares to the animal and lifts his shotgun. He squints into the bleary sunlight and the subzero winds. He shoots &

The animal sidesteps, tips, collapses. Tootoo rushes to it, the snow crunching loudly beneath him. He kneels beside his prey, scanning it, breathing heavily. He reaches into his coat and unsheathes a glimmering knife. He plunges it into the caribou's stomach, slicing it open. Blood seeps everywhere, steaming. Tootoo reaches into the wound. He closes his right hand around the kidney and tugs swiftly. Now he holds the organ, looks at it for a moment, and then puts it into his mouth.

This is what survival always meant to Jordin Tootoo. It meant knowing how to sustain himself for days, weeks, out in this Arctic wilderness, where his people -- the Inuit -- have survived for centuries. Tootoo grew up near an old nickel mine in the town of Rankin Inlet on Hudson Bay, fewer than 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle. He learned to build shelter from chunks of glacier and to kill animals for food. He learned to depend on himself alone, ignore pain, shun fear.

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Eric Adelson | email

ESPN The Magazine
Eric Adelson was a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

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