Sacred Texts  Native American  Northwest  Index  Previous  Next 

At that time the woman was pregnant, and presently she gave birth to a boy. He was very smart like his father, though they did not let him know who his father was. When he grew larger, he was a fine shot with bow and arrows, bringing in all sorts of small animals, and the other boys were jealous of him.

One time, when he was out in a canoe with other boys, hunting, he began shooting at a cormorant (yûq), which kept going farther and farther out. All of a sudden it became foggy and they could not see their way, so they fastened their canoe to the end of a drifting log which was sticking out of the water, and waited. Then some one came to them and said to the boy, "I am after you. Your father wants you." At once the boy lost consciousness, and, when he came to, found himself in a very fine house on the mainland. The chief living there said, "Do you know that you are my son?" He also gave him a name, CAmgigê'tk, and he thought a great deal of him, but the boy thought it strange that he never inquired for his mother. Then he gave his son abalone shells and sharks' teeth (CAxdA'q) as presents. He also made him a club and said to him, "Whenever you are among wild animals and find there are too many, put this club down and it will fight for you. When you see seals or sea lions sitting on the rocks, put it down and it will kill

p. 130

them." After this it seemed to the boy as if a door were opened for him, and he saw the canoe he had left with the boys in it. They said, "What happened to you? Where have you been?" But he only answered, "Did not you see me sitting on the very top of this log?" He was so smart that they believed him. Then they reached home safe and the grandparents were very glad to see him, but only his mother knew what had happened. Like his father, the boy was a great hunter and fisherman. Before he came the people of that town had been starving, but now, especially since he had obtained the club, they had plenty to eat. His grandfather's house was always full of halibut, seal, and sea-lion meat.

Then his grandmother said to him, "Grandson, do not go over in that direction. None of the village people go there, and those who have done so never returned." This, however, only made the boy anxious to see what was the trouble, so he went there and, killing some seals and halibut, put them into the water to entice the creature up. Finally he saw a gigantic crab (s!a-u) coming up in the sea, so he put his club into the ocean, and it broke the crab's shell and killed it. Then he and his slave pulled the big crab ashore, and he took a load of its flesh home to his grandparents. His grandparents had worried all the time he was away, but his mother knew that her son had power over all kinds of fish, because his father is chief of the sea. Everything in the sea is under him.

Another time his grandmother said to him, "There is a place over in this direction where lives a big mussel (yîs!). No canoe can pass it without being chewed up." So he went to the mussel and killed that. He took all of its shell home, and the people throughout the village bought it of him for spears, arrow points, and knives.

At the same time he also brought home a load of cockles, clams, and other shellfish. In the Tsimshian country the shellfish are fine, and the mussels are not poisonous as they are here. In April the Alaskans do not dare to eat shellfish, especially mussels, claiming that they are poisonous. It is because he killed the big mussel that they are all poisonous here. Since his time, too, boys and girls have done whatever their fathers used to do.

After that the boy married and had a son who was very unlike him. His name was Man-that-eats-the-leavings (Q!a-î'tê-cûka-qâ), and, when he grew up, he was worthless. He seemed to see the shellfish, however, and understood the shellfish language.

At the same time the daughter of the chief in a certain village not far away went out of doors and slipped on slime which had dropped from a devilfish hung up in front. She said, "Oh! the dirty thing." About the middle of the following night a fine-looking young man

p. 131

came to her, and she disappeared with him; and the people wondered where she had gone. This young man was the devilfish, whom she married, and she had several children by him. Meanwhile, as she was their only child, her parents were mourning for her continually. After some time had passed, her parents saw two small devilfishes on the steps of the chief's house early in the morning, and the people said to the chief, "What devilfishes are these here on the steps?" He said, "Throw them down on the beach." They did so, but the little devilfishes came right back. They threw them down again, but the chief said, "If they come up the third time, leave them alone. Let them do what they will, but watch them closely." Then they came right into the chief's house, and one climbed into the chief's lap while the other got into that of his wife. He said, "My daughter must have gone to live among the devilfishes." To see what they would do, he said, "My grandchildren, is this you?" Upon which they put their tentacles around his neck and began moving about. Then he gave them some food on long platters, and they acted as though they were eating from these. Afterward he said, "Take those platters and follow them along to see where they go." They did so and saw them disappear under a large rock just in front of the town. So the people came back and said to the chief, "They went under that large rock down there. Your daughter must be under there also." When the people got up next morning they saw on the steps the platters they had taken down, wiped very clean.

Now the chief felt very badly, for he knew what had happened to his daughter, so he said to the people in his house, "Go down and invite my daughter, and say, 'Your father wants you to come to dinner.'" So they went down and said, "Your father has sent us to invite you, your children, and your husband to come to dinner at his house." "We are coming," said the woman from under the beach, "so go back. We will be there soon." She knew the voices of all of her husband's servants. When these came back to the chief, he said, "Did you ask her? Did you go there?" "Yes, we were there." "What did you say to her?" "We told her just what you wanted us to say to her. She said that her husband, her children and herself would be here soon."

So the people watched for her, and by and by she came up along with her devilfish husband and with the two little devilfishes right behind her. Her marten-skin robe was rotten, all sorts of sea weeds were in her hair, and she looked badly, although she had formerly been very pretty. Her father and mother were very sorry. Then they set out food for them and afterward took the trays down to the place where the little ones had gone under the rock.

Now the chief invited all of the people into his house, gave them tobacco to chew, and told them how badly he felt. After they had

p. 132

talked the matter over for a while they said to him, "You might as well have all the devilfishes killed. When those small ones are grown up you do not know what they will do to your house." So they invited the devilfishes again, killed the big one, threw the little ones down on the beach, and kept the girl. By and by, however, the girl said to her father, "There is going to be a terrible war. All of the devilfish are assembling. Don't allow any of the people of your town to sleep at night. Let them watch." So, when night came on, they could see large and small devilfishes coming in through every little crack until the house got quite full of them, and some people were suffocated by having the devilfishes cover their mouths. The devilfish that they had killed was chief among them.

Just then Man-that-eats-the-leavings came to that town, and they told him what a bard time they were having every night with the devilfish, so he stayed with them until evening. When they came in this time he seemed to have control over them, and they ceased bothering the people. The large devilfishes are called dAgasâ'. The small ones, which they threw down on the beach, are those that the Alaskan Indians see, but these do not injure anyone now because their grandfather was a human being.



129:a "I have always wondered what this part of the story means but was never told. It must have been because we were going to have steamboats. Every now and then at the present time something happens like things in the stories. The poor people always had luck in those days, and I have always wondered what it meant. Years ago, too, we used to hear the old people say, 'There will be no slaves. Those that have been slaves are going to feel themselves above the real high-caste Indians.' And sure enough nowadays the people that have come from slaves are very proud, while the race of nobles is dying out. They are protected by law and know that nothing harmful can be said to them. We heard of this years ago." (From the writer's informant.)

129:b "Some people are like this nowadays. They are very poor but are so used to the life that they can not see it, and so used to filth that they do not notice it." (From the writer's informant.)

Next: 31. Raven, Part IX