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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Shopping for Porcupine  >  Discussion Questions
Walking from Barrow

Essay Summary:  The Greist family makes an incredible voyage from Barrow to the Kobuk Valley. Nelson Greist develops his disdain for "looking back," and his grandson Alvin and Seth become best friends and hunting partners. The two hunters explore the northern mountains in search of the mythical Dall sheep.

Discussion Questions:

What is the significance of the Greist family's voyage from Barrow? (p. 82)

Points to consider:

  • They travel an incredible distance, losing Nelson's father, through rugged country.
  • Their voyage takes them through traditional enemy territory of the Athabascan Indians.

Why did Nelson seem to welcome "modernity" to the area? (p. 83)

Points to consider:

  • He had lived through rough times and didn't want to return to them.
  • The "terrifying reign" of the shaman from the old days didn't appeal to him.

How is Nelson's refusal to look back a metaphor for how he lived? (p. 84)

Points to consider:

  • He doesn't look back as he travels, just as he doesn't look back to the old ways. He adopts the new technology and leaves the traditional life behind.

How is Charlie Jones's method of teaching Nelson a lesson different from how someone today might deal with his refusal to look behind to check on those following him? (p. 84-85)

Points to consider:

  • Charlie doesn't tell Nelson to slow down, and he doesn't tell Nelson his sled came loose.
  • Today someone might chastise Nelson and insist he look back. This Inupiaq way of teaching a lesson is subtler and allows for self-reflection without condemnation.

Kantner refers to Alvin and himself as "technically enhanced semi-suicidal hunters." (p. 88) What does he mean?

Points to consider:

  • The two took huge risks in their hunting adventures.

What was the one animal Alvin and Kantner never saw?

Points to consider:

  • Readers might think of a polar bear, but he is referring to Dall sheep.

Why does Kantner call carrying a camera and a rifle a "cross-eyed" vision? (p. 89)

Points to consider:

  • Alvin only carries a rifle to hunt. Kantner is beginning to reveal his mixed emotions of hunting and shooting photos of animals.

How is the camping Stacy knew different from Kantner's and Alvin's? (p. 90)

Points to consider:

  • Camping for Stacy was road and campground camping. Alvin and Kantner were used to remote and rugged camping.

Why did the sheep appear mythical? (p. 95)

Points to consider:

  • The boys had spent their lives hunting and trapping on the Kobuk and had never ventured this far north to the mountains where the sheep resided.

Final Questions:

What might Kantner have learned about Nelson's refusal to look back?

How does this essay about hunting sheep differ from the essay "Brothers on the Trapline"?

How did technology allow Kantner to voyage to the "land of mythical animals"? (p. 95)

What internal conflict is Kantner revealing when he says his vision was cross-eyed when it came to carrying both a rifle and a camera?

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