In olden times, when the Russians were not here, the Lamut lived in the mountains. They had no iron, no ax, no knife. A stone tied to a stick served as ax; a rib of wild reindeer, as knife; splinters of elk thigh bone, as spears; and a thin splinter of reindeer fawn thigh as needle. They had no kettles. They spread their meat upon stones for roasting. They melted the snow into drinking water, putting it in a reindeer stomach, which they hung high above the fire.
Then came some Russian people. They questioned our men, "Who are you?"--"We are Lamut."--"How do you kill wild reindeer?"--"With bow and arrows."--"We want to see them."--"There they are." One young man strung the bow and shot at a splinter of wood stuck into a high tussock quite far away, and his arrow with a point of fish bone split the slender bit of wood. "Oh, how glorious!" said the Russians. "And how do you do in spring when the snow has a thin ice crust?"--"We overtake them running on snowshoes."--"We want to see you do it." Another young man put on his snowshoes and ran off. He sighted a wild reindeer buck, overtook it, and stabbed it with his long spear. "Oh, glorious! Indeed, you are quite active and strong, and successful in hunting, so you must be our closest friends and assistants. You must be our best companions
in every way. If some member of a strange tribe should come here with evil intentions, you must kill him without fear. You must give us assistance in every struggle against all kinds of invaders." 1 They gave them iron knives, and axes, match-locks, and kettles, and all kinds of iron ware. "Take this, and be stronger than any of your neighbors. Chastize them according to their deserts and evil intentions." After that the Russian chief instituted the tribute and noted it down in a big black book. He gave to the young Lamut pipes and tobacco, saying, "Have this to smoke, and with that smoke be first to fight, speeding ahead on your snowshoes."
Told by Ulashkan, a Lamut man, on the upper course of the Molonda River, in the Kolyma country, summer of 1895.
37:1 The Lamut consider themselves. and are considered by the Russians, as the closest allies of the latter in every struggle against other more stubborn and refractory tribes, such as the Chukchee and the Koryak.