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In the more remote places in Alaska, such as in Mekoryuk where Julie lived with her Aunt Martha, there was no high school. Eskimo children of wealthy families were sent to the mainland for further schooling after their middle school years, but for those whose parents could not afford to do so, options were limited. The Eskimo culture was dying at the time of the story, and what little employment there was available was largely provided by white tourists and military installments. Frequently, Eskimo girls like Julie were pawns in arranged marriages at a very young age. Julie's father Kapugen had arranged for her to marry Daniel, the son of Naka, when she turned thirteen.
According to Kapugen, Julie could refuse the arranged marriage if she so chose, but Julie opted to go through with it because her only other option was to remain with her Aunt Martha, who was a bitter and controlling woman. To her dismay, she discovered that her betrothed, Daniel, was mentally handicapped, but was reassured by Daniel's mother Nusan that he was a good boy and would "be like a brother" to her. In reality, Nusan was covetous of the extra help Julie would provide in helping her "make parkas and mittens for the tourists", which is how she made her living. At first, things were tolerable under these arrangements, but when Daniel, goaded by his friends, tried to exercise his marital rights and "mate" Julie, Julie decided that she must flee the situation.
Although arranged marriages were common during this time for young Eskimo girls who did not have the means of continuing their education through high school, they were apparently not as binding as they might have seemed. This was illustrated when Julie's friend Pearl advised her not to pay any attention to the fact that she was married. Pearl said that "most of these arrangements (were) for convenience", and that if Julie was unhappy, all she needed to do was "leave the house or run away and everything (would be) forgotten". Arranged child marriages were common during those times, but equally common were child divorces (Part 2 - "Miyax, the Girl").
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