White bears, white whales and white… caribou?
Churchill Wild Staff got an unexpected treat – aside from the great caribou numbers along the Northern Manitoba/Nunavut border, in the Schmok Lake area they spotted a rare white caribou!
According to our Inuit staff & friends, the white caribou is an “enchanted caribou”, NOT something to be hunted, and they are apparently quite rare.
The legend goes something like this:
It seems that a long time ago, people had the power to turn into animals, and animals could turn into people. It was a time of magic – people had only to say what they wanted for it to come true.
There was young woman named Tyya who wandered far from home in search of driftwood, bones and caribou antlers. A thick fog rolled in and she became lost. She was rescued by Etasack, a young caribou hunter, who brought her to his home.
The next day before he left to go hunting, he warned Tyya not to let anyone enter the tent. But she was tricked by an evil shaman who turned her into a white caribou.
Etasack was very sad when he found her gone, but the sprit of his grandmother, another powerful shaman, gave him the magic means to break the spell.
The next day, the young man headed out to the tundra. He sought out the white caribou in the herd, recited the magic spell and returned Tyya to her human form.
Since then Inuit hunters have been kind to the white caribou, as it might be an enchanted person.
Another legend of the people of the north says the white caribou are shape-shifters, and can change between human and animal form. Many native hunters would leave them alone for this reason.