[This story is an improved version from mini cassette recordings of Mekkar’s actual voice in 1990 while hiking and walking as a University student; then, it was converted to a Windows Media Audio File and transcribed in 2011. Mekkar’s spoken English skills are nowhere near as polished as Saavo’s are. Continued from PART 2 (A) in December, 2014.]
A part of the discussion mentioned how native peoples all over the globe deal with many of the same issues, concerns, and battles to preserve their cultures. The other side in the struggle for self-preservation is the prevailing, dominant civilizations. Problem is, the larger ones make all the rules and continue to spread their reign as the dominant rulers of societies. In a way, similar to an extensive mafia with attitudes and viewpoints that see the natives and their old ways as primitive, backwards, and even retarded. Often times, actions are carried against the indigenous peoples to eliminate them altogether because the view if taken that there is no use for them anymore. Even more so, leaders make straightforward demands that all natives should catch up and adapt to the modern world.
In this area it is normal to have served in the various national military branches for a few reasons: a powerful enemy nearby; this area is sparsely populated; the practice of conscription of all available people for national defense has been conducted for such a long time; and to avoid penalties and punishment for not fulfilling compulsory service. Specific duties depended on each person’s talent combined with geographical location. Some towns or areas are split by a national border, thus individuals from the same village or hamlet possibly could represent different armed forces. Hopefully, they do not have to face off against each other. Various types of service included local militia, homefront, or regular duty.
Females were included in the arrangement also since the regional inhabitants were a small number as compared to huge populations and large armies that surrounded them. In this area one has to be fully committed to their assignment. Choices are limited in some respect because there are not enough people, plus you might end up protecting your own family plot. It is important to note that service is not only restricted to able bodied men. No gender distinction is considered when filling needs. Everyone must contribute if needed to protect the land, property, homes, families, etc. Many of the older people are justifiably afraid of the alternative and what could happen. They still vividly remember the World War II time period, when most of the area was burned to the ground. The local thought process is if everybody does not stand up, then everyone here will be defeated, even crushed and conquered by their enemies. The concepts are built on past real life experience and hardship.
Unfortunately, there are conflicts and rivalries between natives themselves, and certain individuals in particular. Plus, indigenous population is not predisposed as a warmongering people. They are a very peaceful society as a whole. Individuals, can be a different matter altogether. Of course, outside enemy attack without provocation can occur. People can respond, in kind, due to the adaptability aspect that consists as part of overall human nature. In the past, this naturally inclined harmonious disposition and neutral stance positioning has resulted in much suffering placed upon Mekkar’s people. The perception by others saw this personality trait as weakness and forcibly administered a policy of harsh domination and undeniable cruelty. There was plenty of confusion, due to the multiple layers of taxation, levied by a variety of chief rivals who claimed the area as their own. Locals were expected to pay in money, goods, or services to more than one authority at the same time. Otherwise, violent repercussions could be taken such as a family member being sold as a slave to pay the tax debt.
Mainly as a result of necessity, germinating from past brutal treatment experiences, the last few generations of Mekkar’s tribe has acquired an added suspicious defense mechanism. The current age has its dilemmas, but nowhere near the same as in earlier times when the native descendents took a lot of abuse. Massive exploitation of the native people and natural resources by those in authoritative positions was the norm. To some extent the trend still continues, although under the radar and not as blatant. The current laws of the land allow discriminatory practices to transpire at the expense of native interests. Kings, foreign dignitaries, ministers, etc. in former times misused their power in many ways and still do today.
One past example of harsh policy application by invaders was conversion and acceptance of new beliefs. If the aboriginal dwellers didn’t convert, through force, to the dominant state accepted religion from the accepted old rituals of the ancient pagan faith, there would be punishment metered out. Sometimes, the choice was convert to our way or be put to death. Many aboriginal people died as a result of their refusal to neither accept nor submit. More than a few overlords demanded that the natives allow their women to be taken away and intermarried with these strange foreigners or make them slaves. Many of the process were part of an overall plan of racial assimilation. Basically, it is culture extinction forced upon the indigenous minorities by government or powerful leaders.
It is well to note that Mekkar’s people lived in this region long ago and were even given descriptive terms by ancient foreigners who visited from other lands. Study of the area’s languages and dialects have revealed more continuity in the past. Now, there are mostly unintelligible variations mostly due to isolation, locational factors, and national borders. Mekkar thought Ansetti was incredible as he has been able to converse with many different types of people in various dialects of speech. Mekkar admired the trek leader’s communicative ability with everyone he encountered and thus looked up to him in that regard. The boy thought Ansetti was special and had a gift given to him from another realm. This talent was something that Ansetti appeared to do better than everyone else in their crew, well at least, in Mekkar’s mind. He thought it was so cool and desired to acquire that ability also.
As the youngest person from his tribe on this trek, Mekkar had received wide-ranging special education, whether he realized it or not. Added to the fact, back in the village the wise, medicine man Aslak foretold this would happen. The boy was partially exposed to and being trained in a variety of mental and physical categories, all at the same time. Mekkar still didn’t fully grasp many of the concepts due to his youth. The youngest member of the trek was confused regarding some lessons that he was learning on the trek. Later questions and discussion between elders arose as to the boy’s education gathered here. Was there high value and how could it be relevant toward the proper direction of the youngster’s life purpose. How little did Mekkar truly know that he was being prepared for much more, in the future, than he could ever imagine.
According to the plan, the trekkers never quite reached the other sea that Mekkar thought they might reach. Instead, the group changed to a different direction and progressed toward home. Understandably, it was probably a good thing the boy was not part of the leadership planning committee. Admitting inexperienced children in the decision making of the trek, even one as brilliant as Mekkar, would result in disaster for all of them. One of the tribe elders, Aarro, was a mapmaker and sailor who had spent time in other lands. The world explorer mentioned to Mekkar that the group had a certain number of miles (or kilometers) left to travel. He also told the youngster that the trek would follow a slightly different route on their way back home. Aarro commented that the journey shouldn’t be too bad. Along with the herd, they would follow a course which went near a number of a larger lakes and rivers. For Mekkar, there would be more time to progress on to the next level of his development. Aslak and other key players were careful not to overload the growing boy. Information overload avoidance was important. The potential for distraction was great while trying to assimilate everything. Any errors in these environments and situations normally occur due to confusion and lack of coordination among the herders. Potentially costly dangerous mistakes including loss of life was always a real possibility. The idea was to keep Mekkar excited about participating in future treks and not to grow to despise the experience.
There have been great changes for trekkers over time. Groups can now be guided exclusively by modern technology and also aided through the use of machinery with some tasks. Not to forget, the old ways which have been proven effective over hundreds of years. Some tribes, such as Mekkar’s, prefer a mixture of the two methods and claim it delivers the best results. Various fairly predicable seasonal weather patterns often determine diverse individual responsibilities, as well as the whole group. Ancient practices followed guidelines by employing features seen in the sky. The March and September equinoxes, June and December solstices, the recognizable four seasons, plus other important points throughout the calendar year could affect the chosen itinerary. It is a common occurrence each year in winter that a person can experience, no true daylight, for weeks on end. Mekkar has overheard older people in the tribe described their depressed state of mind when they observe the dark sky, even in the middle of the day. On the other hand, during the height of the summer, the sun never completely sets even at midnight. The natives see it as more preparation time to ready themselves for the long, harsh cold season. Mekkar’s parents, among others, believe the tilt in the Earth’s axis plays a role in designating daily weather conditions. In ancient times and similar to an astronomer, a scant number charted these patterns in a manner that was quite different from the current modern day calendar. It was not a complete almanac, but a chronicle to keep track of consistent rhythms and cycles of life unique to this part of the world.
To approach the closest village, the trek was forced to travel around assorted bodies of water. The herders could see, as well as, feel a rush as local military pilots zoomed above their heads. The exhausted and less fearful, young Mekkar accepted this as an indicator of the long final leg of the journey. It was last step toward home or so he thought. They once again set up camp, while a few kept on watch. While listening to the elder’s converse in the sauna tent, Mekkar found out that home was not as close as he hoped. It was about one hundred sixty one and a half miles (260 kilometers) away. Despite the fact the band of herders hadn’t technically gotten back to their destination, a small celebration broke out. The trekkers realized what they had endured on this trek, yet they had not been conquered. There was a collective sigh of relief and gratefulness that they were all still alive. Still, as the trek chief Ansetti was the only one not fully content with the results due to the losses incurred earlier during the wolf attack. There was plenty of reindeer meat available to be consumed; Cheese from their last stop was part of the diet also. Ah, this is fun, thought Mekkar. He saw it as a reward for a difficult journey. There were other delicacies to choose from: salmon, cod, pike, trout, char, carp, perch, whitefish, and others. They are readily available in the territory. Mekkar thought to himself, “Where have they been hiding this stuff?” After relaxing an extra day, the crew continued back on the move.
Juhani was the first one to point out their good fortune that this homestretch area normally had relatively few wolves. However, as they have remembered earlier on this trek you never know what might happen. It is always better to be safe than sorry and prepare for the unexpected. Not to forget any number of other possibilities that could arise at any time. The assembly there didn’t feel they were in much danger here, but they would stick with the original plan anyway because there were precautions built in.
Overall, most felt the trek had gone well except for that one wolf pack attack. Mekkar felt like it was partly his fault for some of the negative outcome because of failure in the execution of his duties as a watch person. He judged that he could have done a better job and more to prevent any losses in the herd. In reality, an effective response is everyone’s responsibility, not Mekkar’s alone. The youngster did what he could to the best of his ability by warning the others. Trouble was, he was unable to recognize the dark enemy figures basking in the twilight glow. Only experience could have taught the boy. Usage of terrain as cover for a night assault on a herd has been effectively employed for many centuries. After a day or so, the band reached a plateau in the plain, while at the same time encountering a strong head wind. In this locale the air sweeps over the high hills and small mountains and picks-up momentum on the flat valley floor. The two major villages in the area receive the full brunt of the flow. Amazingly, the gusts appear to direct itself to points further south because there is nothing to hinder their path. When the wanderers reached one of the villages the group took a break for more supplies.
Ansetti, with Mekkar in tow, struck up a conversation with an old man named Jaakka. Aslak joined them as they already knew each other from long ago. Jaakka had lived for a long time in this vicinity. Even before the Great War which involved almost every place on earth. At that time essentially everything in this area was burnt to the ground. Mekkar was surprised that Jaakka could converse with the leaders somewhat in their village dialect since it slightly different. Later, the local man joined them at their camp on the outskirts.
That evening, Mekkar stayed attentive as Jaakka recalled many tales of old. Legends, sagas, and mythos were brought up also. A few local heroes were featured in some of the stories. Yes, the natives have their own mythology just like the Greeks, Romans, Norse, and other native peoples. There are key figures and individuals, like Thor or Zeus as well. The narratives included a history of their tribes too. Jaakka spoke to the group in their home dialect as much as could. He could get by, but he was not completely fluent in Mekkar’s dialect of speech. Jaakka had his own regional tongue. Instead he conversed in the main national language for most of the campfire session while most sat around drinking their beloved coffee. Part of the dialogue brought up the point regarding the natives, in most circumstances, are not naturally a warring people. Comparable to most cultures, most people are followers and look to leaders to give them courage, especially in times of adversity. Mekkar’s native tribesmen will reluctantly take on a defensive stance if they have to and only as a last resort. To take on a foe in a physical warlike manner is not normally the first course of action.
Yet, the assembly was aware there was still quite a distance to go before they would reach the sanctity of their homes and families. Not long after the small gathering concluded for the night, the wind became heavier and more forceful. The teepees had to be closed more tightly than usual for the next few evenings. It was a good thing the tents are not as tall and wider at the base to make them structurally suited to withstand higher gusts. Mekkar awoke from rest from the noise due to the strong winds. Leaders endured the bursts to gather anything they could to hold down the loose items by staking some of these items into the ground. It was not possible to tie down anything due to a lack of suitable large trees. Many of the trees there were small enough that practically all of the adults could push them over. The problem is the roots are not able to secure themselves deep into the earth due to the permafrost barrier.