Sacred Texts  Native American  Northwest  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 416




Raven was the son of a man named Kit-ka'ositiyi-qâ, who gave him strength to make the world. After he had made it he obtained the stars, moon, and daylight from their keeper at the head of Nass by letting himself be swallowed by the keeper's daughter and be born of her. He obtained fresh water by tricking its owner, Petrel. As he was flying out through the smoke hole, however, Petrel made his smoke-hole spirits catch him and lighted a fire under him, turning him from white to black. Raven scattered the freshwater out of his mouth to make rivers and streams. Because some people who were fishing for eulachon would not take him across a river, he let the sun forth, and they fled into the woods or ocean, becoming such animals as the skins they wore had belonged to. Next Raven stole fat from some boys who were throwing it back and forth. He found a piece of jade bearing some design, stuck it into the ground, and pretended to a spring salmon that the object was calling it names. The salmon came ashore, and Raven killed it. Then he got the birds to procure him skunk cabbage so that they might eat the fish, but instead of feeding them, he sent them away a second time and ate it himself, burying the bones in the ashes. After that the birds dressed and painted themselves up. Raven came to the Bear, and the latter fed him on some of his own flesh, a proceeding which Raven tried to imitate in vain a little later. Then Raven went out fishing with Bear and Cormorant, killed the former by cutting off a piece of flesh, and pulled out Cormorant's tongue so that he could not tell anybody. Afterward he killed Bear's wife by inducing her to eat halibut bladders which he had filled with hot stones. He came to some fishermen and stole the bait from their hooks, but was finally hooked in the nose and had to recover his nose disguised as another person. Now he came to some deer with fat hanging out of their nostrils, pretended that it was mucus, and obtained it. He started along by canoe, and all of the animals wanted to accompany him, but he accepted only Deer. Coming to a deep valley, he laid some dried celery stalks across, covered them with moss, and induced Deer to try to walk across. Deer did so and was, precipitated to the bottom where he was devoured by Raven.

p. 417

[paragraph continues] Afterward Raven began mourning for him. Now he met the old woman who controls the tide, and forced her to let the tide fall and rise as it does to-day. At the same time he told Mink to live on sea urchins. Then he went on crying, "My wife, my wife," and, when he saw some gum on a tree, thought that the tree also was mourning. Coming to Petrel again, he contended with him as to which was the older, but finally Petrel put on his fog-hat so that Raven was unable to find his way out and had to admit Petrel was older than he. He induced Petrel to let his hat "go into the world," so that when people see fog coming out of an opening in the woods and going right back, they know it will be good weather. He obtained fire with the help of a chicken hawk whose bill was burned off in getting it, and he put the fire into red cedar and some white stones. Coming to the great house containing all fish, he brought it ashore by means of a cane carved to resemble the tentacle of a devilfish, and gave a feast for his dead mother out of part of its contents. The other fish spread throughout the world. He invited the killer whales, pretended that he was going to show them how to stick canes into their necks, and stuck sharp pointed sticks in instead, thus killing all but one. (When Raven and another person were boiling down the grease from these killer whales, he stole all from the other man. Then this man shut him up in a grease-box and kicked it off a high cliff, but Raven had induced him to fasten it with a piece of straw instead of rope, and immediately flew out. a) He flew inside of a whale, and lived on what it swallowed and its insides. At last he cut out its heart and killed it. After he had floated ashore the people cut a hole through and he flew away. Returning to the same place, he persuaded them that this was a bad portent, so they left the town, and Raven consumed what they had abandoned. Once Raven went to a calm place just outside of Sitka and made many waves by rocking his canoe, since which time it has always been very rough there. Next he set the heron and sea gull to quarreling in order to obtain a herring which the former had swallowed. Having stolen a salmon from some people when they were asleep, they in turn discovered him asleep and wrenched off his gizzard. He went after it, found them using it as a polo ball, and recovered it, but ever since the Raven's gizzard has been big and dirty. Next he married the daughter of Fog-on-the-salmon, and they put up many salmon eggs and dried salmon. When it became stormy the salmon eggs helped him paddle. Afterward he carried up the dried salmon and dumped the salmon eggs overboard, so that people do not care much for salmon eggs nowadays. He met a man whose club would go out to sea and kill seal of itself, stole this club, and tried to make it do the same thing for him, but it would not, and he broke it

p. 418

in pieces on the rocks. He tried to make a certain place like Nass, but the clams shooting upward drowned his voice and he was unsuccessful. He turned to stone two brothers who had started to cross the Stikine. Coming to the ground-hog people, he tried to make them believe that the spring snowslides had begun so that they would throw their surplus food out of doors, but in vain. He had to wait until spring, when they threw it all out, and he gave a feast for his mother with it. Before this took place, however, he obtained the female genital organs from a certain island. and put them in their places. Then he invited everybody in the world to his feast because he wanted to see a dance hat and Chilkat blanket which were owned by the GonaqAdê't. Since then people have liked to attend feasts.

Raven put a woman under the world to attend to the rising and falling of the tides. Once he wanted to go under the ocean, so he had this woman raise the waters, and they went up to the tops of the mountains. They went up slowly, however, so that people had time to load their canoes. The bears which were walking around on the tops of the mountains tried to swim out to them, and those who had dogs were then well protected. Some people walled about the mountain tops and kept their canoes inside. All who survived were without firewood, however, and died of cold, except some who were turned to stone by Raven along with many animals and fishes. Then the sea went down so far that it was dry everywhere. Raven and another bird-man went about picking up fishes to boil the grease out of them, but Raven took only small fishes like sculpins while the other took whales, etc. Raven seared his companion away and began drinking his grease, but be came back, put Raven into a grease-box, and kicked him off from a high cliff as had happened before. Raven also escaped in the same manner. a One time Raven invited the bears to a feast, and induced the wren to pull out the entrails of one of them through his anus and thus kill him. Raven had become so great an eater from having eaten the black spots off his toes. After everybody had been destroyed at the time of the flood, Raven made a new generation out of leaves, and so it happens that at the time when leaves fall there are many deaths. He made a devilfish digging-stick and went around to all things on the beaches, asking them if they were going to hurt human beings. If they said "No," he left them; if "Yes," he rooted them up. In his time fern roots were already cooked, but he made them green; while devilfish, which were fat, he made hard. On one occasion he invited all the tribes of little people, and, when they were seated upon mats, he shook them and the little people flew into people's eyes, becoming their pupils. He tried to capture a sculpin in order to eat it, but it slipped between his fingers, and its tail became slender as it is to-day. He threw his blanket upon

p. 419

the sea, let it float ashore, and threw it upon a bush where it became Rebis bracteosum (câx). Drinking water he called cât!k!. He placed a woman at the head of a creek and said that the salmon should go up to see her. He made the quills of the porcupine out of yellow cedar bark. He made the west wind, which he placed in a house on top of a mountain, and decreed that it should hurt nobody. He also told a person how to obtain strength enough to paddle home by taking up a piece of red salmon and blowing behind him. Raven made also the south wind and the north wind. He made all the other native races of people. The dog was at first a human being, but Raven altered him because he was too quick. One time Raven came to a thing called fat-on-the-sea. He made it go under water and come up again, and every time it came up he cut some of it off with his paddle. The eighth time it went under for good. At one place a person came out and spoke angrily to Raven, whereupon he turned him into a wild celery plant. He tied something around the head of a clam and gave it the same name as a man's privates.

After having tried every sort of contrivance for supporting the earth, Raven drained a sea-water pond when the tide was out, killed a beaver living at the bottom of it, and used its foreleg. Old-woman-under-the-earth has charge of it. Afterward Raven killed a big whale and tried to have it towed into the pond where the beaver had been. Finally he got tired out and turned it into stone along with the four canoes that were towing it. He gave names to several other places in this neighborhood.


In Tenakee inlet is a place named after a person who was swallowed by a halibut in attempting to wade over to some girls picking berries at a strawberry patch on the other side. In the same neighborhood is a big clam which used to swallow canoes. Raven, however, directed a little mink to call to it to stick its head out, and after it had done so the people plunged sticks into it and cut in two the ligament for closing its valves.


Four brothers owned a dog which pursued a cloud up into the sky, and they followed it, coming out at the edge of a very steep place on the other side of the world. Descending this with difficulty they came upon a one-legged man spearing salmon, and one of them stole his spear point by concealing himself in a salmon and cutting it off. Next day the man discovered them and killed three, but the fourth, who had red paint and a rattle, assisted by his dog, killed him and restored his brothers to life. After that they killed the bear chief, whose slave they had already destroyed, and went down to his house, where the

p. 420

most powerful of them took his place. That evening the people outside played with a hoop, and the three younger brothers were killed by it. Then the other brother sent the dog after it, and he threw it far up into the mountains where it made their curved outlines. The next time he threw, it went around the sun and made the ring of light seen there. After that the three brothers were restored to life and all started off. They came to Athapascan people, who had holes in their faces in place of mouths, and. who fed themselves with worms through these. There the youngest brother., Lq!ayâ'k!, obtained bows and arrows. By and by they came to some people who were bathing for strength in the sea, and joined them. At this time they suspected that Lq!ayâ'k! was going with his sister, so they put spruce gum around the place where she slept and discovered it was true, for which they called him all sorts of names, and told him to go away from them and become a "thunder." He did so, and their sister was so ashamed that she went down into Mount Edgecumbe. When the thunder is heard nowadays people call upon it to drive away sickness. The other brothers started across the Stikine and became rocks there.


The killer whales were made out of yellow cedar by a man of the Tsague'dî after he had tried every other kind of wood in vain.

One time a man and his wife discovered some killer whales camping, and scared them away. When the man began to take away their provisions, however, they came back and carried off his wife. The husband followed, and when he saw them go down into the ocean he jumped in after them. First he came to a town occupied by the shark people, where he met a hook he had formerly lost, now become their slave. Directed by the shark chief, he met the killer-whale chief's slave chopping wood behind the town, caused him to break his ax, and mended it for him. Then the slave stationed him at the door, and as he carried some water into the house pretended to spill it into the fire. While the house was full of steam the man seized his wife and ran off. Then the killer whales and sharks had a great fight and many killer whales were destroyed. When the killer whales start north the seals say, "Here come the warriors!" There are several kinds of killer whales. In former times the killer whales dug through a cliff in the bay Kots!ê'L! and carried their canoes across to the other side on skids. They still cross at this place every year.

5. KAKA'

KAka' was taken south from Sitka by the land otters and sent back again by the husbands of a woman who had been carried off like. himself. What they used as a canoe was a skate, and they kept him

p. 421

covered all the way. After a time one of his friends heard him singing in the midst of a fog, but they could not get near him until they had fasted for two days. Then they found him lying upon a log with blood running out of his nose and mouth. They brought him home, and he became a great shaman.


A man's sister had been taken away by the land otters and was married among them. One time, when he was camping by himself making a canoe, she began bringing him food. Afterward she sent her three, children to help him get bait, catch halibut, and launch his new canoe.


During a famine at Sitka a man's son, who had been taken by the land otters, brought him bait and put halibut on his hook when they went fishing together. On the way back he speared a seal, and afterward they brought home loads of halibut, seal, etc. At first he went back into the forest during the day, but after a while he began to stay with them and day by day his body became plainer. By and by they started back to town, and as they neared it, their son's form began to grow indistinct. When his mother moved forward to look at him he was gone.


A boy found a little wolf, which killed all kinds of animals for him. One day he loaned it to his brother-in-law, and the latter did not treat it right, so it ran away. The boy followed it, and finally came to a big lake over which he was helped by an old woman, who told him that his wolf was the son of the town chief in the village opposite. When he got there he was given a quill that would kill any animal it was pointed at, and a blanket which healed on one side and killed on the other. The people in that village were rolling something about which the chief told him was the rainbow. When he reached home again he found all dead, but he restored them to life by means of his blanket. With his two gifts he became wealthy.


A man out hunting saw a wolverine killing a herd of mountain sheep, and presently he came to Wolverine-man's house, which was full of game. Wolverine-man taught him various hunting tabus for that region, and showed him how to make a ground-hog trap. The man also learned that a small bushy tree called s!Ax is Wolverine-man's wife. When he got home he explained the trap to his people, and then started off trapping again with another man who thought he

p. 422

understood how to do it. He who had been with Wolverine-man soon discovered, however, that this person thought he had said that the ground hogs were caught by whittling up sticks in front of their holes.


A chief's daughter stepped on halibut slime and said something that made the halibut people angry. They came by canoe to get her in marriage, but as soon as they were out of sight of the town they fastened her to a rock by means of some pitch, and she died there. By and by her brothers found her body. Then one of them, disguised as their sister, went down to the halibut chief and killed him. On their way home after this one of the brothers shot a duck and said something offensive to it. For this the killer whale, the duck's grandfather, took them down to his house, burned them badly before the fire, and turned them into a certain species of duck.


A big devilfish swept all of the occupants of a certain camp into the sea except three brothers who were out hunting. Then the two elder brothers killed it with sharpened sticks, although they were themselves dragged down by it, while their youngest brother traveled to another place and reported what had happened.

In the same town was a little boy who cried so constantly that his father called upon a land-otter-man to carry him off. The land-otter people fed him on what looked like blackberries, but were really spiders. Two days later his people found him, but when they had expelled the spiders from his body, nothing was left but his skin.


A woman reached under a rock for clams, and a large bivalve closed upon her hand and held her. When the tide rose she was drowned.


The people of a certain village were carried up into the sky out of sight by seizing something which dropped down among them. Those who were making canoes also disappeared mysteriously. Only a woman and her daughter were left. Then the daughter swallowed some root sap and gave birth to a boy called Root-stump. This boy pulled down the thing that had carried off his people, by running his roots into the earth, and he killed the man who had destroyed the canoe makers. Afterward he became a great hunter.

p. 423


For treating a piece of seaweed disrespectfully a certain town was buried deep in snow at the very beginning of summer. The people were in want until informed by a bird that berries were ripe in a neighboring town. So they repaired thither and found it midsummer.


Porcupine stayed with Beaver to protect him from Bear. By and by Porcupine went home and Beaver with him, and when Bear approached, Porcupine carried Beaver up to the very top of the tree and left him. Finally Squirrel came and helped Beaver down. Then Beaver carried Porcupine out to an island, from which he escaped only by calling on Wolverine, who caused the surface of the lake to freeze over. After that happened, Porcupine went to live with Ground hog. A man caught a ground hog, but, as he was about to cook its head, the head spoke. He was seared, stopped trapping ground hogs, and went up to see his bear dead falls, when one of these fell upon him and killed him.


A poor man could catch no halibut, although others were very successful. One day he pulled up a huge abalone, but he became so tired at what people said to him about it that he let it go again. By and by he baited his hook with a sponge saturated with blood from his nose and pulled up a nest in which were multitudes of fishes called îcqê'n. From these he became very rich.


Four brothers were forced by a storm to take refuge at a place near Mount Edgecumbe, and one of them discovered a blue substance out of which they made paint. When they started back with some of this the weather became stormy, and one of them suggested it might be best to throw the blue substance overboard, but the eldest held on and they reached home safe.

One day some women were gathering shellfish at a place not far from Sitka. While they were down on the beach the baby belonging to one of them began crying, and its mother shouted to an older child to give it something to eat. Misunderstanding her words, the child rolled the baby into the fire and burned it up. Thereafter the stream at that place was named Creek-where-a-person-was-burned (KA'xsîgAnîhîn).

p. 424


A man collecting cedar bark slipped from his tree climber and was strangled by it. Afterward the board he had slipped from, was always exhibited at potlatches. Two men belonging to the same place had their canoe swallowed by a devilfish, and the people, of the town sank a great piece of half-burned wood in the sea over the devilfish hole. It was never seen afterward [and probably killed the devilfish].

Some hunters killed a land otter, cooked and ate it. They were followed home by a land-otter-man, who began throwing rocks at them from a tree. After they said something to it, it threw cones instead. Toward morning they lighted a fire under the tree and made the land-otter-man fall into it.

A woman had disappeared from the town these men came from, so everybody hunted for her. At last they came upon the house of those who had killed her, which they overthrew and set on fire over the heads of its occupants. A shaman who belonged to the people they had destroyed learned from his spirits where there was flint and broke some off by their help.

19. KÂTS!

A Sitka man named Kâts! hunted bear, was taken into a bear's den, and married a female grizzly bear by which be had several children. When he went back to his own people his bear wife told him to have nothing to do with his human wife and children. He went hunting every day, but took everything to his bear wife and children. One time, however, he disobeyed her injunctions and was killed by his bear family. Kâts!'s bear children afterward spread over the world and were killed in various places, the last by the Sitka people in White Stone Narrows. Before they killed him the bear destroyed an entire camp in which a girl had said something bad to him.


A sea-lion hunter speared the sea-lion chief's son and was drowned, but his companion reached a rock in safety. He was taken into the sea-lion chief's house, cured the chief's son by palling out the spear point, and was sent home inside of a sea-lion stomach.

Two other hunters, along with their canoe, were taken into the house of the GonaqAdê't because one of them had struck his slave, the skate. When he learned that they were KAtagwA'dî, however, he sent them home, and told them to use his emblem, Rock House.


A man whose friends had all died took some pieces of ice up into the house and treated them as if he were feasting them, in order to show respect to his dead friends. Since that time the Grass people

p. 425

have owned Iceberg House. Afterward he went outside and called aloud as if he were inviting people to a feast, upon which a multitude of bears came down, and he feasted them. As they went out they showed their respect for him by licking him.


A woman in the Yakutat country said something which displeased the frogs, and she was taken away by them. Next spring a man saw her among the frogs. So the people drained the pond and recovered her. She had been living on black mud like the frogs, and after her people got all of this out of her, she died. From this, according to some, the KîksA'dî claim the frog crest and names.


A Kâ'gwAntân chief having died, one of his friends called upon the KîksA'dî to take care of his body. The frog people, hearing this, thought that they were meant, and when the corpse was being burnt a big frog jumped out from the place, made a noise, and then jumped into the flames. Afterward they captured slaves for the dead man, and, when they put food into the fire for him, they named the frog as well.


A KîksA'dî found two women swimming in a pond, seized their coats, and compelled them to marry him. They were really brants. When the brants came north in the spring his wives obtained food from their people, but when they returned south the wives went with them. The man went after them, and, although they were at first afraid of his bow and arrows, they finally let him live with them. When they went north once more, war broke out between the heron people and the brant people, and the man killed so many of the former that they made peace.


A woman used to wish that she might live among the birds on a certain island. One time, as she and some other women were endeavoring to land there, they were capsized and all her companions drowned. Some time afterward her father happened to pass the place and saw his daughter sitting among the birds. He tried to induce the birds in every way to give her up, but succeeded only by offering them some white hair that had belonged to his wife's grandfather. Each bird put one of these hairs on its head, and they let the woman go. Because the women who were drowned there were T!A'q!dentân the T!A'q!dentân claim that island.

p. 426


A youth who had been trained to hunt mountain sheep was carried away by them, and liberated only after his people had made war on the mountain sheep. Then he taught the people mountain-sheep tabus, and he became a great shaman. Afterward his people went to Little-lake-fort and built a big house for him. When the shaman fasted for this, be saw the Wain, so they carved the posts to represent the Wain and named it Wain House. Once, after he had had a possession, he sent his friends out for a grizzly bear. They destroyed it, but it killed the first man who attacked it, and the shaman restored him to life. Later he performed about a dead raven to make his people successful in war, and, when they went out, they destroyed their enemies' fort completely.

One time some women went to a reef near this town, lost their canoe, and were drowned in the rising tide.

Another time a wealthy man from Yakutat visited Auk. While he was there the son of the town chief threw the stern piece of his canoe, which was covered with abalone shell, into the fire. A property contest followed between the two chiefs in which the man from Yakutat was worsted.

In the same fort a woman gave birth to the greatest liar among those people. When his mother died he started for Chilkat to give the people a death feast, and on his return related the following adventures. He said that on his way Indian rice hailed down into the canoe, and he obtained sirup to put on it from a waterfall of sirup. They got up to Klukwan by blowing on the sail, and when he began crying he put a piece of bark in front of his face and the tears ran down on it in streams.


Two shamans at Alsek river began singing, the one to bring up eulachon, the other to bring bears and other forest animals. The first succeeded in starting a run of fish by going down under the river in a little canoe. After that the land otters tried to carry off two women who were menstruant, but, with the assistance of the shaman, the people finally made them desist. Some people in a neighboring town who heard of it spoke contemptuously of the land otters, and their whole town with the exception of two men was destroyed by a flood of water from the lake above them. After this one of the shamans set out for another place. On the way he hooked an enormous devilfish which swept all the forest trees in his vicinity into the ocean. When he performed blindfolded at that town, the people ran out their feet to trip him up, but he jumped over them. He also stabbed a man and restored him to life. Presently he predicted an eclipse, and when

p. 427

it came on, the people all danced to dance the moon out and held out their property to it so that it would not feel poor.

Meanwhile the other shaman brought an enormous salmon into Alsek river, and his spirits were so powerful that a small boy sufficed to kill it. There is a hole in the neighborhood of that place out of which quantities of rocks used to come when there was to be a great run of eulachon or other fish. A glacier crosses Alsek in one place, and he who speaks while passing under it is overwhelmed. When it was asked for food, it would rush into the water and raise a wave, carrying numbers of salmon ashore. An Athapascan shaman living far up the river was visited by several canoe loads of people from below and prophesied that one canoe load would be lost under the glacier. The down-river shaman then fought with the Athapascan by means of his spirits and killed him. There is a rock just south of Alsek river inhabited by the spirits of a certain shaman, and it is used as a crest by the T!A'q!dentân.

The Alsek River people once killed a rich man belonging to some people who lived on a stream farther north. The next time they went up there the enemy forced them to enter their fort through a narrow passage and killed a large number. On their third expedition, however, they destroyed the fort and all within it. Another time some Alsek people visited at a place beyond, where they were invited to take sweat baths, and were killed. Then the Alsek people made their shaman fight the shaman of the northern people, undertook another raid, and killed a number equal to those that had been lost.


A man wearing a bear skin climbed a tree, and was accidentally killed by his brothers-in-law. Some time later his young nephew heard of it and bathed for strength. Four men went out to carve things for a shaman, and the young man was deceived into thinking that they had been killed by the same persons who had shot his uncle, so he started out to war. After he had killed a great many people be was induced to give up fighting by some words uttered by his father's sister. After a time he killed one of his own clan from another town and lost some of his immediate friends in return, so be decided to go to war, but he was captured and many of his people were killed. Then he promised not to fight again, so they let him take the bodies of his people home. Some time afterward a man from Prince of Wales island, on the way to Chilkat, visited him to inquire about that place. Then his visitor continued up to Chilkat and brought home great quantities of presents in payment for dancing.

A rich man started f rout Chilkat for KAq!Anuwû' to obtain property for a dead friend. He was so high that no one dared speak to him

p. 428

until a poor man rushed down with a war spear as if he were going to kill him. This was to shame them for their delay, and they immediately brought the visitor ashore and paid him for his dead friend.


A man named Xaku'tc! killed a large devilfish with his spear, but perished in doing so. Afterward his spirit came to a man of his clan who was very powerful. Having tested his spirits, the people started to war. Just before they reached the fort a brave man there was killed by a little boy held captive among them. Then they came upon the fort and destroyed it. Now the southern people started north. On the way they came to a great climber whom they tried to test by seeing if he could climb a very steep cliff near Huna. He went up and got away. Afterward be came down to the place where they were camping and liberated his steersman to whom they had tied their canoes. The, enemy then attacked a fort and killed all of the people except one woman who was pregnant. Her they carried south, and she gave birth to a boy, who became a wealthy shaman, purchased his mother's freedom, and went north with her. Then he performed for his own people, and they set out to war and destroyed many towns, but spared that in which he had formerly lived. Now the southern people made a great raid, capturing fort after fort. At the second fort two canoes attempted to pass down through a tideway at half tide and were destroyed. From another they were driven off by means of clam shells. In one fort a man was living alone because he was very jealous of his wife, and while the warriors were talking to him one of their canoes ran against a rock and split in two, so they left him. When they had no more space for slaves, the southern people destroyed the canoes at every fort so that the northern people could not retaliate. The bulk of the northern people, however, had been encamped along the coast to the westward. When they heard what had happened they cut down an enormous spruce, hollowed it out, and started to war the following spring. The southern people thought that the northern people could not do anything to them. They were scattered about in various camps and fell an easy prey to their enemies.


A man returning to Sitka from the south told his people that Dekî'-anqâ'wo (God) had come down from Heaven to help them, and the women dressed up and began dancing. They danced an entire year.


417:a An episode which is perhaps misplaced. See p. 418.

418:a See above, p. 417.

Next: Myths Recorded in English at Wrangell