A legend from Kauwerak Eskimo people chronicles the time summer didn't come, a year with two winters and no summer. A year of hunger. The tale follows a woman, Napakhuk [NUP-a-kook] and her infant son, the lone survivors of starvation. It tells the story of a trek from a tiny coastal hamlet a hundred miles south of present-day Nome to safety.
Oquilluk Legacy Manuscript: In the Eskimo calendar year during the moon of April, the spring weather A big storm comingcomes until May and June pass. After the birds of all kinds come to Alaska, the weather is cloudy and overcast. The wind turns into a northerly wind. The ground is exposed from the snow. The lakes have water. The rivers begin running and the creeks begin to flow.

Then it turns into cold weather. Soon the water stops running and freezes over. Snow begins to fly. A big storm comes. In the Eskimo calendar year in the month of June the weather is cold and stormy. Snow is flying. The north wind is very strong. That big winter lasts from June until the next first of the years comes. That is April. It is eighteen months of cold winter weather. They have only two months of spring weather, the months of May and June.

People all over from Norton Sound up to the North cannot even go out hunting or fishing. Inland people all starve to death except two at the upper end of Tuksuk, three at Sinuk and two at Cape Darby.

The story is a creation tale, describing the rebirth of the Kauwerak people following the famine. Napakhuk [NUP-a-kook] and her child journey hundreds of miles by land and on ice floes in the Bering Sea.

Mary's IglooBefore she goes around the point she stops and looks back toward the village where her husband lay where she has buried him and she weeps. After weeping she said to herself, "he died and he cannot help us anymore. Now I must try and go on my way to somewhere that I have not known. A new country might help to keep me from death and to keep us alive. I must go.

Finally, when the weather turns, Napakhuk and her child settle and start over again.

That was generations ago. Now, most of the Kauwerak tribe live in the town of Teller, an hour's drive from Nome. The legend of the year with two winters was one of the stories they heard growing up.

Graphic sources:About.com and The Department of Community and Economic Development