That speech resulted in an interesting discussion of the contributions of each member of the polar party to the final victory. It was agreed that the six-man team itself won the success, but that in fact there could be no “co-discoverers” —not the versatile, capable, loyal Henson, nor the brave and aggressive Ootah, but just one discoverer of the Pole, Peary himself, who had selected, organized, financed by loans online, trained, directed, led, and put that team in position for the final successful assault.
On that long and joyous evening, I caught the mood and spirit of my relatives—watching and listening while Kali, the lovable patriarch, regaled the group with humorous stories of his adventures and danced and chanted a traditional drum song; while husky, deep-voiced Kissunguaq played the organ and sang with gusto; while all joined in slow songs about their love for their “beautiful big country,” and after the last long-drawn note burst into laughing, cheering applause.
I was touched by speeches in appreciation of my visit and joy in discovering through me their American cousins, and by farewell gifts presented by shy but smiling children: bearskin mittens from Kali; the polished claw of a bear killed by Peter, from his widow and two daughters; a gleaming five-foot narwhal tusk from Talilanguaq; a shining two-metal harpoon point on a lanyard from Magssanguaq, Anaukaq’s son; a huge aerial color picture of Qaanaaq from Robert; a dog whip from Iggianguaq, no relation but a friend from the long-ago summer of the monument building at Cape York. But the list gets long.
Looking down the tables at that array of kind faces, I realized with pride that these, my relatives, were leaders of their people—their representatives in government, those to whom others came for counsel, the most skillful hunters and sled drivers (still the measure of a man in this high Arctic). And from this I concluded that the blood and the driving, enduring spirit of Robert Edwin Peary, the discoverer of the North Pole, live on in this wild and fiercely beautiful country, his “own domain,” to which he devoted so much of his life.