The Project Gutenberg eBook of Myths and Legends of Alaska

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Myths and Legends of Alaska

Compiler: Katharine Berry Judson

Release date: October 18, 2014 [eBook #47146]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Rachael Schultz, Sam W. and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


Transcriber's Note

The cover image was created by the transcriber for the convenience of the reader, and it is placed in the public domain.


Author of “Myths and Legends of the Pacific Northwest,” and
“Montana, ‘The Land of Shining Mountains’”


Publisher's logo


W. F. Hall Printing Company

Tlingit Indians in Dancing Costume


MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST. Especially of Washington and Oregon. With 50 full-page illustrations. Small 4to.

$1.50 net.

MONTANA: “The Land of Shining Mountains.” Illustrated. Indexed. Square 8vo.

75 cents net.

A. C. McCLURG & CO., Publishers



LONG ago, even before the days of the animal people, the world was only a great ocean wherein was no land nor any living thing except a great Bird. The Bird, after a long, long time, flew down to the surface of the water and dipped his great black wings into the flood. The earth arose out of the waters. So began the creation. While the land was still soft, the first man burst from the pod of the beach pea and looked out upon the endless plain behind him and the gray salt sea before him. He was the only man. Then Raven appeared to him and the creation of other beings began. Raven made also animals for food and clothing. Later, because the earth plain was so bare, he planted trees and shrubs and grass and set the green things to growing.

With creation by a Great Spirit, there came dangers from evil spirits. Such spirits carried away the sun and moon, and hung them to the rafters of the dome-shaped Alaskan huts. The world became cold and cheerless, and in the Land of Darkness white skins became blackened by contact with the darkness. So it became necessary to search for the sun and hang it again in the dome-shaped sky above them. Darkness in the Land of Long Night was the cause, through magic, of the bitter winds of winter—winds which [vi] came down from the North, bringing with them ice and cold and snow. This was the work of some Great Spirit which had loosened the side of the gray cloud-tent under which they lived, letting in the bitter winds of another world. Spirits blow the mists over the cold north sea so that canoes lose sight of their home-land. Spirits also drive the ice floes, with their fishermen, far over the horizon of ocean, into the still colder North. Spirits govern the run of the salmon, the catching of whales, and all the life of the people of the North who wage such a terrific struggle for existence.

So there must needs be those who have power over the evil spirits, those who by incantations and charms of magic, by ceremonial dancing in symbolic dress, can control the designs of those who work ever against these children of the North. Thus there arose the shamans with all their ceremonies.

The myths in this volume are authentic. The original collections were made by government ethnologists, by whose permission this compilation is made. And no effort has been made, in the telling of them, to change them from the terse directness of the natives. The language of all Indian tribes is very simple, and to the extent that an effort is made to put myths and legends into more polished form, to that extent is their authenticity impaired.

Only the quaintest and purest of the myths have been selected. Many Alaskan myths are very long and tiresome, rambling from one subject to another, [vii] besides revealing low moral conditions. These have been omitted, as have also those which deal with the intermarriage of men and birds, and men and animals. Such myths are better left among government documents where they can be readily consulted by those making a special study of the subject. They are hardly suitable for any collection intended for general reading. The leading myth of the North, however, the Raven Myth, is given with a fair degree of completeness. It would not be possible, nor would it be wise, to attempt a compilation of all the fragments of this extensive myth.

Especial thanks are due to Dr. Franz Boas for the Tsetsaut and Tsimshian myths, to John R. Swanton for the Tlingit myths, to Edward Russell Nelson for the Eskimo myths, to Ferdinand Schnitter, and to others. Thanks are also due for courtesies in securing photographs to Mr. B. B. Dobbs and particularly to Mr. Clarence L. Andrews, both of whom have spent many years in Alaska.

K. B. J.

University of Washington,
Seattle, Washington
July, 1911.



The Raven Myth Eskimo (Bering Straits) 17
The Flood Tlingit (Wrangell) 33
The Origin of the Tides Tsetsaut 37
How the Rivers were Formed Tlingit (Wrangell) 39
The Origin of Fire Tlingit 40
Duration of Winter Tlingit (Wrangell) 41
Raven’s Feast Tlingit 42
Creation of the Porcupine Tlingit 44
How Raven Taught the Chilkats Tlingit (Wrangell) 45
Raven’s Marriage Eskimo (Bering Straits) 46
Raven and the Seals Tsimshian 51
Raven and Pitch Tsimshian 53
Raven’s Dancing Blanket Tsimshian 55
Raven and the Gulls Tsimshian 56
The Land Otter Tlingit (Wrangell) 57
Raven and Coot Athapascan (Upper Yukon) 58
Raven and Marmot Eskimo (Bering Strait) 59
The Bringing of the Light by Raven Eskimo (Lower Yukon) 61
Daylight on the Nass River Tlingit (Wrangell) 65
The Naming of the Birds Tlingit (Wrangell) 67
The Origin of the Winds Tlingit 70
Duration of Life Tlingit (Wrangell) 71
Ghost Town Tlingit (Wrangell) 72
[x]How Raven Stole the Lake Haida (Queen Charlotte Islands) 73
The Killer Whale Haida 75
Origin of the Chilkat Blanket Tsimshian 77
Origin of Land and People Eskimo (Lower Yukon) 80
Creation of the World Athapascan (Upper Yukon) 81
Origin of Mankind Eskimo (Bering Straits) 82
The First Woman Eskimo (Bering Straits) 83
The First Tears Eskimo (Bering Straits) 85
Origin of the Winds Eskimo (Lower Yukon) 87
Origin of the Wind Athapascan (Upper Yukon) 91
North Wind Tlingit (Wrangell) 92
East Wind and North Wind Tlingit 93
Creation of the Killer Whale Tlingit 94
Future Life Tlingit (Wrangell) 96
The Land of the Dead Eskimo (Lower Yukon) 97
The Ghost Land Tlingit 100
The Sky Country Tlingit 103
The Lost Light Eskimo (Port Clarence) 105
The Chief in the Moon Eskimo (Bering Straits) 109
The Boy in the Moon Eskimo (Lower Yukon) 110
The Boy in the Moon Athapascan (Upper Yukon) 112
The Meteor(?) Tsetsaut 113
Sleep House Tlingit 114
Cradle Song Koyukun 115
Proverbs Tsimshian 118
How the Fox became Red Athapascan 119
Beaver and Porcupine Tsimshian 120
[xi]The Mark of the Marten Athapascan (Upper Yukon) 126
The Wolves and the Deer Tsimshian 127
The Camp Robber Athapascan (Upper Yukon) 129
The Circling of Cranes Eskimo (Bering Straits) 131
The Last of the Thunderbirds Eskimo (Lower Yukon) 132
How the Kiksadi Clan Came to Sitka Tlingit 135
Origin of the Grizzly Bear Crest Tlingit 137
Origin of the Frog Crest Tlingit 138
Origin of the Beaver Crest Tlingit 139
Origin of the Killer Whale Crest Tlingit 140
The Discontented Grass Plant Eskimo (Bering Straits) 142
The Wind People Koryak (Siberia) 147
Tricks of the Fox Koryak (Siberia) 148



Tlingit Indians in Dancing Costume Frontispiece
Reindeer on the Tundra 20
“Raven taught them how to build houses of driftwood and bushes, covered with earth” 21
“The next morning the baby was a big boy” 24
“The clay became a beautiful girl” 25
Ivory Pipe Stems 28
Kayak Man Casting a Bird Spear 29
Eskimo Woman from Cape Prince of Wales 34
Fur Parkas Worn by Eskimo Women 35
Reflection of Mountain Peaks 38
“So the smoke-hole spirits held Raven until the smoke blackened his white coat” 39
Pine Falls, Atlin 42
Elk Falls 43
Porcupine 44
“Raven showed the people how to make canoes out of skins” 45
Shoup’s Glacier, Valdez 48
Birdseye View of Valdez 49
Masks 52
Dolls 53
Eskimo Boys 58
“Marmot put out the tip of his nose” 59
Ice Hummocks on Bering Sea 62
Snow Shovel, Pick, Rake, and Maul 63
[xiv]Eskimo in Waterproof Coat Made of Walrus Intestines 66
“Raven said to Grouse, ‘You know that Sea-lion is your grandchild’” 67
Figurehead on Indian Canoe 68
“Raven said to Crow, ‘You will make lots of noise. You will be great talkers’” 69
“Raven said to North Wind, ‘Your back is white.’” (On the Road to Fairbanks) 70
Old Russian Blockhouse, at Sitka 71
“Raven unrolled the lake there. There it lay” 74
“The man-spirit was inside the Skana” 75
A Chilkat Blanket 78
Alaskan Baskets 79
Keystone Canyon 80
The “S” Glacier 81
The Yukon, Taken at Midnight in June 84
Islands in Sitka Sound 85
Tool and Trinket Boxes 88
Spoons and Ladles 89
Skagway River, from Porcupine Hill 92
Middle Lake and Bridge on the ’97 Trail 93
Face of Davidson Glacier 96
“The Land of the Dead”—Graveyard at Rasboinsky 97
Perry Island, Bogosloff Group, Newly Risen from the Sea 100
“The end of the Death Trail” 101
Walrus Tusks 106
A Shaman 107
Box Canyon, on White Pass and Yukon Route 110
Near Valdez Narrows 111
Frozen Waterfall 114
“The wind blows over the Yukon” 115
[xv]Travellers over the Chilkoot Pass (1891) after the Discovery of Gold 118
Looking down Cut-off Canyon from below White Pass Summit 119
Dog Team with Record of 412 Miles in 72 Hours 122
Siberian Husky 123
Totem Poles 126
Laplanders Milking Reindeer, near Port Clarence 127
View of Skagway 130
Bering Sea, near Nome 131
View of Eldorado 136
Scene on the White Pass and Yukon Route 137
Alaska Cotton on the Tundra, near Nome 142
A Crested Hat 143




Eskimo (Bering Straits)

IT was in the time when there were no people on the earth plain. The first man for four days lay coiled up in the pod of the beach pea. On the fifth day he stretched out his feet and burst the pod. He fell to the ground and when he stood up he was a full-grown man. Man looked all around him and then at himself. He moved his hands and arms, his neck and legs. When he looked back he saw, still hanging to the vine, the pod of the beach pea, with a hole in the lower end out of which he had dropped. When he looked about him again, he saw that he was getting farther from his starting place. The ground seemed to move up and down under his feet, and it was very soft. After a while he had a strange feeling in his stomach, so he stooped down to drink some water from a small pool at his feet. Then he felt better.

[18] When Man looked up again he saw coming toward him, with a fluttering motion, something dark. He watched the dark thing until it stopped just in front of him. It was Raven.

As soon as Raven stopped, he raised one of his wings and pushed up his beak, as though it were a mask, to the top of his head. Thus Raven changed at once into a man. Raven stared hard at Man, moving from side to side to see him better.

Raven said, “What are you? Where did you come from? I have never seen anything like you.”

Raven still stared at Man, surprised to find this new thing so much like himself. He made Man walk around a little, while he perked his head from side to side to see him better. Then Raven said again, in astonishment, “Where did you come from? I have never seen anything like you before.”

Man said, “I came from the pea pod.” He pointed to the plant from which he came.

“Ah, I made that vine,” said Raven. “But I did not know that anything like you would come from it. Come with me to the high ground over there; it is thicker and harder. This ground I made later and it is soft and thin.”

So Man and Raven walked to the higher ground which was firm and hard. Raven asked Man if he had [19] eaten anything. Man said he had taken some of the soft stuff from one of the pools.

“Ah, you drank some water,” said Raven. “Now wait for me here.”

Raven drew down his beak, as though it were a mask, over his face. He at once became a bird and flew far up into the sky—far out of sight. Man waited until the fourth day. Then Raven returned bringing four berries in his claws. He pushed up his beak and so became a man again. Then he gave to Man two salmon berries and two heath berries, saying, “Here is something I made for you to eat. I wish them to be plentiful on the earth. Eat them.”

Man put the berries into his mouth, one after the other, and ate them. Then he felt better. Then Raven left Man near a small creek while he went to the edge of the water. He took two pieces of clay at the water’s edge, and shaped them like a pair of mountain sheep. He held them in his hand until they were dry, and then he called Man to come and see them. Man said they were pretty, so Raven told him to close his eyes. Man closed his eyes tightly. Then Raven pulled down his beak-mask, and waved his wings four times over the pieces of clay. At once they bounded away as full-grown mountain sheep. Raven told Man to look.

Man was so much pleased that Raven said, “If these [20] animals are plentiful, perhaps people will try to kill them.”

Man said, “Yes.”

Then Raven said, “Well, it will be better for them to live among the steep rocks so every one cannot kill them. There only shall they be found.”

Raven took two more pieces of clay and shaped them like tame reindeer. He held them in his hand until they were partly dry, then told Man to look at them. Raven again drew down his beak-mask and waved his wings four times over them. Thus they became alive, but as they were only dry in spots while Raven held them, therefore they remained brown and white, with mottled coat. Raven told Man these tame reindeer would be very few in number.

Again Raven took two pieces of clay and shaped them like the caribou or wild reindeer. But he held them in his hands only a little while so that only the bellies of the reindeer became dry and white. Then Raven drew down his beak-mask, and waved his wings over them, and they bounded away. But because only their bellies were dry and white while Raven held them, therefore the wild reindeer is brown except its white belly.

Raven said to Man, “These animals will be very common. People will kill many of them.”

Photograph by B. B. Dobbs
Reindeer on the Tundra
A house
“Raven taught them how to build houses of driftwood and bushes, covered with earth”

[21] Thus Raven began to create the animals.

Raven said one day to Man, “You are lonely by yourself. I will make you a companion.” He went to some white clay at a spot distant from the clay of which he had made animals, and made of the clay a figure almost like Man. Raven kept looking at Man while he shaped the figure. Then he took fine water grass from the creek and fastened it on the back of the head for hair. When the clay was shaped, Raven drew down his beak-mask and waved his wings over it. The clay became a beautiful girl. The girl was white and fair because Raven let the clay dry entirely before he waved his wings over it.

Raven took the girl to Man. “There is a companion for you,” he said.

Now in the days of the first people on the earth plain, there were no mountains far or near. No rain ever fell and there were no winds. The sun shone always very brightly.

Then Raven showed the first people on the earth plain how to sleep warmly in the dry moss when they were tired. Raven himself drew down his beak-mask and went to sleep like a bird.

When Raven awakened, he went back to the creek. Here he made two sticklebacks, two graylings, and two blackfish. When these were swimming about in the [22] water, he called Man to see them. Man raised his hand in surprise and the sticklebacks darted away. Raven told him the graylings would be found in clear mountain streams, while the sticklebacks would live along the coast, and that both would be good for food.

Raven next made the shrewmouse. He said, “The shrewmouse will not be good for food. It will prevent the earth plain from looking bare and cheerless.”

In this way Raven was busy several days, making birds and fishes and animals. He showed each of them to Man and explained what they were good for. Then Raven flew into the sky, far, far away, and was gone four days. When he came back he brought a salmon to Man.

But Raven noticed that the ponds and lakes were silent and lonely, so he made water bugs to flit upon the surface of the water. He also made the beaver and the muskrat to live around the borders of the ponds. Raven told Man that the beavers would live along the streams and build strong houses, so Man must build a strong house also. Raven said the beavers would be very cunning and only good hunters could catch them. He also told Man how to catch the muskrat and how to use its skin for clothing.

Raven also made flies and mosquitoes and other insects to make the earth plain more cheerful. At first [23] mosquitoes were like flies; they did not bite. One day Man killed a deer. After he had cut it up and placed the fat on a bush, he fell asleep. When he awoke he found the mosquitoes had eaten all of it. Then Man was very angry and scolded the mosquitoes. He said, “Never eat meat again. Eat men.” Before that mosquitoes never bit people.

When the first baby came on the earth plain, Raven rubbed it all over with white clay. He told Man it would grow into a man like himself. The next morning the baby was a big boy. He ran around pulling up grass and flowers that Raven had planted. By the third day the baby was a full-grown man.

Then another baby was born on the earth plain. She was rubbed over with the white clay. The next day the baby was a big girl, walking around. On the third day she was a full-grown woman.

Now Raven began to be afraid that men would kill all the creatures he had made. He was afraid they would kill them for food and clothing. Therefore Raven went to a creek nearby. He took white clay and shaped it like a bear. Then he waved his wings over it, and the clay became a bear. But Raven jumped very quickly to one side when the bear became alive because it looked fiercely around and growled. Then Raven showed the bear to Man and told him to be careful. [24] He said the bear was very fierce and would tear him to pieces if he disturbed it.

Then Raven made the seals, and taught Man how to catch them. He also taught Man how to make strong lines from sealskin, and snares for the deer.

Then Raven went away to the place of the pea vine.

When he reached the pea vine he found three other men had just fallen from the same pod that Man had fallen from. These men were looking about them in wonder. Raven led them away from the pea vine, but in a different direction from the first man. He brought them close to the sea. Raven stayed with these three men a long time. He taught them how to take wood from the bushes and small trees he planted in hollows and sheltered places, and to make a fire drill, and also a bow. He made many more plants and birds which like the seacoast, but he did not make so many as in the land where Man lived. He taught these men how to make bows and arrows, spears and nets, and how to use them; and also how to capture the seals, which were now plentiful in the sea. Then he taught them how to make kayaks, and how to build houses of drift logs and of bushes, covered with earth. Then he made wives for these men, and went back to Man.

A young boy
Copyrighted by F. H. Nowell
“The next morning the baby was a big boy”
A young woman
Courtesy “Alaska-Yukon Magazine”
“The clay became a beautiful girl”

When Raven reached the land where Man lived, he thought the earth plain still looked bare. So, while the [25] others slept, Raven planted birch and spruce and cottonwood trees to grow in the low places. Then he woke up the people, who were pleased with the trees.

Then Raven taught Man how to make fire with the fire drill, and to place the spark of tinder in a bunch of dry grass and to wave it about until it blazed, and then to put dry wood upon it. He showed them how to roast fish on a stick, and how to make fish traps of splints and willow bark, and how to dry salmon for winter use.

Where Man lived there was now a large village because the people did everything as Raven told them, and therefore all the babies grew up in three days. One day Raven came back and sat down by Man by the creek and they talked of many things. Man asked Raven about the skyland. Man wanted to see the skyland which Raven had made. Therefore Raven took Man to the land in the sky.

Man found that the skyland was a very beautiful country, and that it had a much better climate than his land. But the people who lived there were very small. Their heads did not reach to Man’s hips. The people wore fur clothing, with beautiful patterns, such as people on earth now wear, because Man showed his people how to make them. In the lakes were strange animals which would have killed Man if he had tried to drink [26] of the water. In a dry lake bed, thickly covered with tall grass, Man saw a wonderful animal resting upon the tips of the grasses. It had a long head and six legs. It had fine, thick hair, and on the back of the head were two thick, short horns which bent forward and then curved back at the tips. Raven told Man it took many people to kill this animal.

Then they came to a round hole in the sky and around the edge of the hole was short grass, glowing like fire. Raven said, “This is the star called the moon-dog.” Some of the grass had been pulled up. Raven said he had taken some to start the first fire on earth.

Then Raven said to Man, “Shut your eyes. I will take you to another country.” Man climbed upon Raven’s back and they dropped down through the star hole. They floated a long, long time through the air, then they floated through something else. When they stopped Raven saw he was at the bottom of the sea. Man could breathe there, but it seemed foggy. Raven said that was the appearance of the water. Then Raven said, “I want to make some new animals here; but you must not walk about. You lie down and if you get tired, turn over on the other side.”

Man went to sleep lying on one side, and slept a long while. When he waked up, he wanted to turn over, but he could not. Then Man thought, “I wish I could [27] turn over,” and at once he turned. As he turned, he was surprised to see that his body was covered with long, white hairs; and his fingers were long claws. Then he went to sleep again. This he did three times more. Then when he woke up, Raven stood by him. Raven said, “I have changed you into a white bear. How do you like it?” Man could not make a sound until Raven waved his wings over him. Then he said he did not like it; if he was a bear he would have to live on the sea, while his son lived on land; so Man should feel badly. Then Raven struck the white skin with his wings and it fell off. So Man became himself again. But Raven took the empty bearskin, and placed one of his own tail feathers inside it for a spine. Then he waved his wing over it, and a white bear arose. Ever since then white bears have been found on the frozen sea.

Raven said, “How many times did you turn over?”

Man said, “Four.”

Raven said, “You slept just four years.”

Then Raven made other animals. He made the a-mi-kuk, a large, slimy animal, with thick skin, and with four long, wide-spreading arms. This is a fierce animal and lives in the sea. It wraps its four long arms around a man or a kayak and drags it under the water. A man cannot escape it. If he climbs out of [28] his kayak on the ice, the a-mi-kuk will dart underneath and break the ice. If Man runs away on shore, the a-mi-kuk pursues him by burrowing through the earth. No man can escape from it when once it pursues him.

Then Raven showed Man the walrus, and the dog walrus, with head and teeth like a dog. It always swam with large herds of walrus and with a stroke of its tail could kill a man. He showed him whales and the grampus. Raven told Man that only good hunters could kill a whale, but when one was killed an entire village could feast on it. He showed him also the sea fox, which is so fierce it kills men; and the sea otter, which is like the land otter but has finer fur, tipped with white, and other fishes and animals as they rose to the surface of the water.

Then Raven said, “Close your eyes. Hold fast to me.”

Then Man found himself on the shore near his home. The village was very large. His wife was very old and his son was an old man. The people gave him place of honor in the kashim, and made him their headsman. So Man taught the young men many things.

Now Man wanted again to see the skyland, so Raven and Man went up among the dwarf people and lived there a long time. But on earth the village grew very large; the men killed many animals.

From photograph loaned by the Smithsonian Institution
Ivory Pipe Stems
From drawing loaned by the Smithsonian Institution
Kayak Man Casting a Bird Spear

[29] Now in those days, the sun shone always very brightly. No rain ever fell and no winds blew.

Man and Raven were angry because the people killed many animals. They took a long line and a grass basket, one night, and caught ten reindeer which they put into the basket. Now in those days reindeer had sharp teeth, like dogs. The next night Raven took the reindeer and let them down on the earth close to Man’s village. Raven said, “Break down the first house you see and kill the people. Men are becoming too many.” The reindeer did as Raven commanded. They stamped on the house and broke it down. They ate up the people with their sharp, wolf-like teeth. The next night, Raven let the reindeer down; again they broke down a house and ate up the people with their sharp teeth.

The village people were much frightened. The third night they covered the third house with a mixture of deer fat and berries. On the third night when the reindeer began to tear down the third house, their mouths were filled with the fat and sour berries. Then the reindeer ran away, shaking their heads so violently that all their long, sharp teeth fell out. Ever since then reindeer have had small teeth and cannot harm people.

After the reindeer ran away, Raven and Man [30] returned to the skyland. Man said, “If the people do not stop killing so many animals, they will kill everything you have made. It would be better to take the sun away from them. Then it will be dark and people will die.”

Raven said, “That is right. You stay here. I will go and take away the sun.”

So Raven went away and took the sun out of the sky. He put it in a skin bag and carried it far away, to a distant part of the skyland. Then it became dark on earth.

The people on earth were frightened when the sun vanished. They offered Raven presents of food and furs if he would bring back the sun. Raven said, “No.” After a while Raven felt sorry for them, so he let them have a little light. He held up the sun in one hand for two days so people could hunt and secure food. Then he put the sun in the skin bag again and the earth was dark. Then, after a long time, when the people made him many gifts, he would let them have a little light again.

Now Raven had a brother living in the village. He was sorry for the earth people. So Raven’s brother thought a long time. Then he died. The people put him in a grave box and had a burial feast. Then they left the grave box. At once Raven’s brother slipped [31] out of the box and went away from the village. He hid his raven mask and coat in a tree. Soon Raven’s wife came for water. When she took up a dipperful to drink, Raven’s brother, by magic, became a small leaf. He fell into the water and Raven’s wife swallowed him. . . . .

When Raven-Boy was born he grew very rapidly. He was running about when he was only a few days old. He cried for the sun which was in the skin bag, hanging on the rafters. Raven was fond of the boy so he let him play with the sun; yet he was afraid Raven-Boy would lose the sun, so he watched him. When Raven-Boy began to play out of doors, he cried and begged for the sun. Raven said, “No.” Then Raven-Boy cried more than ever. At last Raven gave him the sun in the house. Raven-Boy played with it a long while. When no one was looking, he ran quickly out of the house. He ran to the tree, put on his raven mask and coat, and flew far away with the sun in the skin bag. When Raven-Boy was far up in the sky, he heard Raven call, “Do not hide the sun. Let it out of the bag. Do not keep it always dark.” Raven thought the boy had stolen it for himself.

Raven-Boy flew to the place where the sun belonged. He tore off the skin covering and put the sun in its place. Then he saw a broad path leading far away. [32] He followed it to the side of a hole fringed with short, bright grass. He remembered that Raven had said, “Do not keep it always dark,” therefore he made the sky turn, with all the stars and the sun. Thus it is now sometimes dark and sometimes light.

Raven-Boy picked some of the short, bright grass by the edge of the sky hole and stuck it into the sky. This is the morning star.

Raven-Boy went down to the earth. The people were glad to see him. They said, “What has become of Man who went into the skyland with Raven?” Now this was the first time that Raven-Boy had heard of Man. He started to fly up into the sky, but he could get only a small distance above the earth. When he found he could not get back to the sky, Raven-Boy wandered to the second village, where lived the men who had come from the pod of the beach pea. Raven-Boy there married a wife and he had many children. But the children could not fly to the sky. They had lost the magic power. Therefore the ravens now flutter over the tundras like other birds.



Tlingit (Wrangell)

LONG, long ago, in the days of the animal people, Raven-at-the-head-of-Nass became angry. He said, “Let rain pour down all over the world. Let people die of starvation.” At once it became so stormy people could not get food, so they began to starve. Their canoes were also broken up, their houses fell in upon them, and they suffered very much. Then Nas-ca-ki-yel, Raven-at-the-head-of-Nass, asked for his jointed dance hat. When he put it on water began pouring out of the top of it. It is from Raven that the Indians obtained this kind of a hat.

When the water rose to the house floor, Raven and his mother climbed upon the lowest retaining timber. This house we are speaking of, although it looked like a house to them, was really part of the world. It had eight rows of retaining timbers.

When Raven and his mother climbed to a higher timber, the people of the world were climbing into the hills. Then Raven and his mother climbed to the fourth timber; by that time the water was half-way up [34] the mountains. When the house was nearly full of water, Raven’s mother got into the skin of a cax. To this very day Tlingits do not eat the cax because it was Raven’s mother. Then Raven got into the skin of a white bird with copper-colored bill. Now the cax is a diver and stayed upon the surface of the water. But Raven flew to the very highest cloud and hung there by his bill. But his tail was in the water.

After Raven had hung in the cloud for days and days—nobody knows how long—he pulled his bill out and prayed to fall on a piece of kelp. He thought the water had gone down. When Raven fell upon the kelp and flew away he found the waters just half-way down the mountains.

Raven flew around until he met a shark, which had been swimming around with a long stick. Raven took the stick and climbed down it as a ladder to the bottom of the ocean. But Raven had set Eagle to watch the tide.

Raven wandered around the bottom of the ocean until he came to an old woman. He said to her, “How cold I am after eating those sea urchins.” He repeated this over and over again.

A young woman carrying a baby on her back
Copyrighted by F. H. Nowell
Eskimo Woman from Cape Prince of Wales
Two women wearing fur parkas
Copyrighted by F. H. Nowell
Fur Parkas Worn by Eskimo Women

At last the woman said, “What low tide is this Raven talking about?”[1] Raven did not answer. The [35] woman kept repeating, “What low tide are you talking about?”

[1] In these Northern myths, questions and answers have no relation to each other. Such speeches are regarded as magic sayings.

Then Raven became angry. He said, “I will stick these sea urchins into you if you don’t keep quiet.” At last he did so.

Then the woman began singing, “Don’t, Raven! The tide will go down if you don’t stop.”

But the water was receding, as Raven had told it to, in his magic words. Raven asked Eagle, who was watching the tide, “How far down is the tide now?”

“The tide is as far down as half a man.”

“How far down is the tide?” he asked again.

“The tide is very low,” said Eagle.

Then the old woman started her magic song again.

Raven said, “Let it get dry all around the world.”

After a while, Eagle said, “The tide is very low now. You can hardly see any water.”

Raven said, “Let it get still drier.”

At last everything was dry. This is the lowest tide there ever was. All the salmon, and whales, and seals lay on the sands because the water was so low. Then the people killed them for food. They had enough food to last them a long time.

When the tide began to rise again, the people were frightened. They feared there would be another flood, so they carried their food back a long distance.

[36] Afterward Raven returned to Nass River and found that people there had not changed their ways. They were dancing and feasting. They asked Raven to join them.




A LONG time ago, a man wandered down the Nass River. Wherever he camped, he made rocks of curious shapes. Now his name was Qa, the Raven. The Tlingit call him Yel.

Qa wandered all over the world. At last he travelled westward. Now at that time the sea was always high.

In the middle of the world Qa discovered a rock in the sea. He built a house under the rock. Then he made a hole through it and through the earth and fitted a lid to it. Raven put a man in charge of the hole. Twice a day he opens the lid and twice each day he closes it. When the hole is open the water rushes down through it into the depths; then it is ebb tide. When he closes the lid, the water rises again; then it is flood tide.

Once upon a time, Tael, a Tlingit chief, while hunting sea otters was carried out to Qa’s rock by the tide. The current was so strong he could not escape. When Tael was drawn toward the rock, he saw a few small trees growing on it. Tael threw his canoe line over [38] one of the trees. Thus he escaped being carried down by the water into the hole under the rock. After some time he heard a noise. The man was putting the lid on the hole. Then the water began to rise. Tael paddled rapidly away. He paddled away until the tide began to ebb again. Then he fastened his canoe to a large stone nearby, and waited until flood tide came again. Thus Tael escaped.

Reflection of Mountain Peaks
A raven
“So the smoke-hole spirits held Raven until the smoke blackened his white coat”



Tlingit (Wrangell)

PETREL was the first person created by Raven-at-the-head-of-Nass. He was keeper of the fresh water. No one else might touch it. Now the spring he owned was on a rocky island called Dekino, Fort-far-out, where the well may still be seen. Raven stole a great mouthful of water, but as he flew over the country drops spilled out of his beak. These drops made the rivers: the Nass, Skeena, Stikine, and Chilkat. Raven said, “The water that I drop down upon the earth, here and there, will whirl all the time. There will be plenty of water, but it will not flood the world.”

Now before this time, Raven was pure white. But when he stole the water from Petrel he tried to fly out of the smoke hole. Petrel cried, “Spirits of the smoke hole, hold him fast.” So the smoke-hole spirits held Raven until the smoke blackened his white coat.




LONG ago, in the days of the animal people, Raven saw a fire far out at sea. He tied a piece of pitch to Chicken Hawk’s bill. He said, “Go out to the fire, touch it with the pitchwood, and bring it back.” Chicken Hawk did so. The fire stuck to the pitchwood and he brought it back to Raven. Then Raven put the fire into the rock and into the red cedar. Then he said, “Thus shall you get your fire—from this rock and from this red cedar.” The tribes did as he told them.



Tlingit (Wrangell)

ONCE Raven went to Ground-hog’s house for the winter. Now Ground-hogs go into their holes in September. At home they live like people. People to them are animals.

So Raven spent the winter with Ground-hog and became very tired of it. But he could not get out. Ground-hog enjoyed himself, but Raven acted like a prisoner. Raven kept shouting, “Winter comes on. Winter comes on.” Raven thought that Ground-hog had power to shorten the winter.

Now at that time, Ground-hog had to stay in his hole for six months; at that time, Ground-hog had six toes, one for each month of winter. Then Raven pulled one toe off each foot, so that the winter would be shorter. That is why the Ground-hog now has but five toes.




RAVEN’S mother died, so he gave a great feast, but first he went to the Ground-hog people to get food. Now the Ground-hog people know when slides descend from the mountains, and they know that spring is then near at hand, so they throw all of their winter food out of their burrows. Raven wanted them to do this. He said, “There is going to be a world snowslide.” Ground-hog chief answered, “Well, nobody in this town knows about it.”

In the spring when the snowslides did come, the Ground-hogs threw out all their green herbs, and their roots from their burrows.

Therefore Raven said to the people, “I am going to have a feast. I am going to invite the whole world.” Raven was going to invite every one because he had heard that the Gonaqadet had a Chilkat blanket and a Chilkat hat and he wanted to see them.[2] First he invited the Gonaqadet and afterward the other chiefs [43] of all the tribes in the world. At the right time they came.

[2] See myth, “Origin of the Chilkat Blanket.”

Pine Falls, Atlin
Photograph by C. L. Andrews
Elk Falls

When the Gonaqadet came in he had on his Chilkat hat with many crowns and his Chilkat blanket, but he was surrounded by a fog. Inside of the house, however, the fog melted away.

Because Raven had this feast, people now have to have feasts. Because Raven had this burial feast, when a man is going to have a burial feast he has a many-crowned hat carved on the top of the dead man’s grave post.




RAVEN went into the woods and set out to make porcupines. For quills he took pieces of yellow cedar bark. These he set all the way up and down the porcupine’s back so that bears would be afraid of it. That is why bears never eat porcupines. Raven said to the porcupine, “Whenever any one comes near you, throw your tail about.” That is why people are afraid to go near a porcupine.

A group of people in a large canoe
“Raven showed the people how to make canoes out of skins”



Tlingit (Wrangell)

RAVEN taught the Chilkats that there were Athapascan Indians. He went back into their country. So the Chilkat people to this day make their money by going there. Raven also taught the Chilkats how to make secret storehouses outside of their villages, and he taught them how to put salmon into the storehouses and keep them frozen over winter. That is how the Chilkats got their name, from toil, “storehouse,” and xat, “salmon.”

Raven also showed the Chilkats the first seeds of Indian tobacco and taught them how to plant it. After the tobacco was grown, he dried it and pounded it up with burned clam shells. The Chilkats made a great deal of money by trading tobacco with the Athapascans.

Afterward Raven went beyond Copper River to Yukatat. There he showed the people how to make canoes out of skins.



Eskimo (Bering Straits)

AFTER Raven had lived alone a long while, he decided to get married. It was late in the fall and the birds were flying southward. So Raven flew away in the path of the geese and birds on their way to summerland. Raven stopped directly in the path.

Soon Raven saw a young goose coming near. He looked down at his feet and called, “Who will marry me? I am a very nice man.” The goose flew on.

Soon a black brant passed. Raven looked down at his feet and called, “Who will marry me? I am a very nice man.” The black brant flew on. Raven looked after her. He said, “What kind of people are these? They do not even stop to listen.”

A duck came near. Raven hid his face and called, “Who will marry me? I am a very nice man.” The duck looked toward him, then flew on. Raven said, “Ah, I came very near it then. I shall succeed this time.”

Soon a whole family of white-front geese came along. [47] There were the parents, four brothers, and a sister. Raven called out, “Who wants to marry me? I am a fine hunter. I am young and handsome.” The geese alighted just beyond him. Raven thought, “Now I will get a wife.”

Raven saw near him a pretty white stone with a hole in it. He picked it up, strung it on a long grass stem, and hung it about his neck. Then he pushed up his beak so that it slid to the top of his head like a mask; so he became a dark-colored young man. Then he walked up to the geese. Each of the geese pushed up its bill in the same manner; they became nice looking people. Raven liked the girl; he gave her the stone, thus choosing her for his wife, and she hung it about her own neck. Then all pushed down their bills again and became birds. So they flew south toward the summerland.

The geese flapped their wings heavily and flew slowly. Raven, on outspread wing, glided on ahead. The geese looked after him, saying, “How light and graceful he is!”

When Raven became tired he said, “We had better stop early and look for a place to sleep.” Soon they were all asleep.

The next morning the geese were awake early. They wanted to be off. Raven was sound asleep. Father [48] Goose wakened him. He said, “We must make haste. It will snow here soon. We cannot wait.”

So the geese flapped their wings and flew slowly and heavily along. Raven led the others with outspread wings. He was always above or ahead of the others. They said, “See how light and graceful he is!”

Thus they travelled until they came to the seashore. They feasted upon the berries on the bushes around it. Soon they were asleep.

Early the next morning the geese made ready to go without breakfast. Raven was hungry but the geese would not wait. As they flapped their wings and started, Father Goose said, “We will stop once on the way to rest; then our next flight will bring us to the other shore.” Raven began to be afraid, but he was ashamed to say so.

The geese flapped their wings slowly and flew steadily, heavily along. Raven, with outspread wings, glided ahead. After a long time Raven began to fall behind. His wings ached. The geese flew steadily on. Raven flapped heavily along, then glided on his outstretched wings. But he grew more and more tired. He fell farther and farther behind. At last the geese looked back. Father Goose said, “He must be tired. I thought he was light and active. We will wait.”

Shoup’s Glacier, Valdez
Birdseye View of Valdez

The geese settled close together in the water. Raven [49] flew slowly up, gasping for breath. He sank down upon their backs. When Raven had his breath again, he put his hand on his breast. He said, “I have an arrow here from an old war. It pains me greatly. That is why I fell behind.”

After resting, the geese rose from the water. They flapped slowly along. Raven flew with them. After a while, Raven began to fall behind. He grew more and more tired. At last the geese looked back. Father Goose said, “He must be tired. We will wait.” So the geese sank down together in the water, while Raven flew slowly up to them and sank down upon their backs.

Raven said, “I have an arrowhead which pierced my heart in an old war. That is why I fell behind.” Raven’s wife put her hand on his breast. She could feel it beating like a hammer; she said she could not feel an arrowhead.

So the geese rose again from the water. They flapped slowly along. But Raven’s wings were very tired. Before long he fell behind again. Again the geese waited for him.

Then the Geese Brothers began to talk among themselves. They said, “We do not believe he has an arrowhead in his heart. How could he live?”

Now this last time when they rested, they could see the far-off shore. Father Goose said to Raven, “We [50] will not wait for you again. We will not rest again until we reach the shore.”

So the geese rose from the water and flapped slowly along. Raven’s wings seemed very heavy. The geese flew nearer and nearer the shore; but Raven flew nearer and nearer the waves. As he came close to the water he shrieked to his wife, “Leave me the white stone. Throw the white stone back to me.” It was a magic stone. Thus Raven cried. Then he sank down into the water, but the geese had reached the land.

Raven tried to rise from the water. His wings would not spread. Raven drifted back and forth with the waves. The white caps of the surf buried him. Only once in a while could he get his beak above the water to breathe. Then a great wave cast him on the shore. Then he struggled up the beach. He reached some bushes where he pushed up his beak. Thus he became a small, dark-colored man. Then he took off his raven coat and mask. He hung them on a bush to dry. Raven made a fire drill out of dry wood and made a fire. Thus he dried himself.




AS Raven travelled along, he came to a house where a man lived near the edge of the water. Raven said to him, “I will be your friend.”

The man said, “That is good.”

Now the beach in front of the house was full of seals. Raven ate them all during two nights. He ate all the seals in front of the house. Then he was hungry again.

Raven killed the man. Then he used his canoe and harpoon. Raven used those. He speared four seals. Then he returned to the shore. He took the seals out of the canoe and began cutting wood. Then he built a fire and placed stones in it in order to heat them. Afterward he put the seals on a pile of hot stones. He cooked the four seals and covered them with skunk cabbage leaves.

Raven then raised the cover and took out a seal. He ate it. Then he stretched out his hand and took another seal.

Now there was Stump sitting nearby. Raven held [52] the seal in his hands and said to the stump, “Don’t you envy me, Stump?” Then he went into the woods. At once Stump arose and sat down on the hole in which the seals were steaming. The seals were right under Stump. Then Raven returned, carrying leaves of skunk cabbage. When he saw Stump sitting on his seals, he cried. He was much troubled because he was hungry. Then he took a stick and dug the ground. He cried all the time he was digging. He found a little bit of meat and ate that. But he could not do anything. He cried all the time because he was so hungry.

Drawings of three different masks
From drawing loaned by the Smithsonian Institution
Drawings of five different dolls
From drawing loaned by the Smithsonian Institution




RAVEN went travelling through the woods until he came to the house of Little Pitch. Little Pitch was rich, and invited him in. When Raven had eaten enough, he slept. When he awakened, he said they would go to catch halibut.

Little Pitch was willing, but said, “It is not good for me to be out after sunrise. I must return while it is still chilly. I shall have enough by that time.”

Raven said, “I shall do whatever you say, Chief.”

Little Pitch said, “Well!”

Then they started for the fishing place. They fished all night. When the sun rose Little Pitch wanted to go ashore.

Raven said, “I enjoy the fishing. Lie down in the bow of the canoe and cover yourself with a mat.”

Little Pitch did so. After a while Raven called, “Little Pitch!”

He answered, “Heh!”

After a while Raven called again, “Little Pitch!”

He answered again in a loud voice.

[54] Again after some time, Raven called again, “Little Pitch!”

Then Little Pitch’s answer was very weak because the sun was getting warm.

Now Raven hauled up his line and paddled home. He pretended to paddle hard, but he only put his paddles into the water edgewise. Again he called, “Little Pitch!”

“Heh!” Little Pitch replied, but his voice was very weak. The sun was getting still hotter. Then Raven knew that Little Pitch was melting.

Behold! Pitch came out and ran over the halibut in the boat. Therefore the halibut is black on one side.

Then Raven took the pitch and mended his boat with it.




ONE day Raven put on the shaman’s blanket of his grandfather. Then he went away; he strayed off. He was very poor and he tore his dancing blanket. Then he caught ravens. He used anything to kill the ravens. Then he took the skins of the ravens and tied them together. Then he walked about in them, dressed very well.

Now he saw a good shaman’s blanket like the one he had before. He tore his raven’s blanket. He took the dancing blanket that hung before him. Behold! it was not a shaman’s blanket. It was only the lichens on a tree. Now he saw it was only lichens. He sat down and wept. He took his old raven’s blanket and tied it together. Then once more he went on, weeping with hunger.




RAVEN did another thing. He induced the olachen to come to Nass River. He said to them, “Go up on both sides of the river.” They did so. Then Raven’s canoe was quite full of fish. He had not used his rake, but the whole shoal of olachen jumped into his canoe.

Then he camped at Crab-apple place. He clapped on the top of the stone. Then very slippery became the top of that stone that the olachen should not be lost. He put olachen on spits to roast them.

Raven called, “Little Gull!”

Then many gulls came. They ate all the olachen of Raven. They said, “Qana, qana, qana, qana!” They talked much while they ate all the olachen of Raven.

Then Raven was sad. Therefore he took the gulls and threw them into the fireplace. So the tips of their wings have been black, ever since that day.



Tlingit (Wrangell)

RAVEN said to Land Otter, “You will live in the water just as well as on land.”

Raven and Land Otter were good friends, so they went halibut-fishing together. Land Otter was a good fisherman. Raven said to Land Otter, “You will always have your house on a point where there are breezes from all sides. Whenever a canoe with people capsizes, you will save the people and make them your friends.” That is how the Land Otter Man was created: because Raven told this to Land Otter.

If people who are taken away by Land Otters are brought back by their friends, they become shamans. It was through the Land Otters that shamans were first known. Shamans, by means of Land Otter spirits, can see each other, even though others cannot.



Athapascan (Upper Yukon)

A LONG time ago, Raven wanted all the birds to look well, so he painted them. Raven painted Coot last. Then Coot began to paint Raven, who wanted many bright colors. So Coot painted Raven with bright colors with one hand, but in the other hand he hid charcoal. When Raven looked away, Coot quickly blackened all the bright colors with charcoal. Then Raven was angry and he chased Coot. But Coot ran too quickly, so Raven threw white mud at him,—white mud which spattered over Coot. Therefore Coot had white spots on his head and back. But Coot flew away and left Raven all black.

Eskimo Boys
A marmot pokes its head out from amongst rocks
Photograph by C. L. Andrews
“Marmot put out the tip of his nose”



Eskimo (Bering Straits)

ONCE Raven was flying over a reef near the seashore, near seabirds that were perched on the rocks. Seabirds cried to him, “Oh, you offal-eater! Oh, you carrion-eater! Oh, you black one!” Raven turned and flew far away crying, “Qaq! qaq! qaq!” He flew far away across the great water until he came to a mountain on the other side.

Raven saw just in front of him the hole of Marmot. Then Raven stood by the door watching, until Marmot came home, bringing food. But Marmot could not enter his hole because Raven stood in the way. Marmot asked Raven to stand to one side. Raven said, “No. They called me ‘carrion-eater.’ Now I will show them I am not. I will eat you.”

Marmot said, “All right; but I have heard that you are a very fine dancer. Now, if you will dance, I will sing. Then you can eat me, but let me see you dance before you eat me.”

Raven agreed to dance. Then Marmot sang,

[60] “Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven, how well you dance!
Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven, how well you dance!”

Raven danced. Then they stopped to rest.

Marmot said, “I like your dancing. Now I will sing again, so shut your eyes and dance your best.”

So Raven shut his eyes and danced clumsily around. Marmot sang,

“Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven, what a graceful dancer!
Oh, Raven, Raven, Raven, what a fool you are!”

Because Marmot, with a quick run, had darted between Raven’s legs and was safe in his hole.

When Marmot was safe in his hole, he put out the tip of his nose and mocked Raven. He said, “Chi-kik-kik, chi-kik-kik, chi-kik-kik! You are the greatest fool I ever saw. What a comical figure you cut when dancing! I could hardly keep from laughing. Just look at me—see how fat I am. Don’t you wish you could eat me?”

Raven, in a rage, flew far away.



Eskimo (Lower Yukon)

IN the first days, the sun and moon were in the sky. Then the sun and moon were taken away and people had only the light of the stars. Even the magic of the shamans failed to bring back the light.

Now there was an orphan boy in the village who sat with the humble people over the entrance way of the kashim. He was despised by every one. When the magic of the shamans failed to bring back the sun and moon into the sky the boy mocked them. He said, “What fine shamans you must be. You cannot bring back the light, but I can.” Then the shamans were angry and beat that boy and drove him out of the kashim. Now this boy was like any other boy until he put on a raven coat he had. Then he became Raven.

Now the boy went to his aunt’s house. He told her the shamans had failed to bring back the light, and they had beaten him when he mocked them. The boy said, “Where are the sun and moon?”

The aunt said, “I do not know.”

The boy said, “I am sure you know. Look what a [62] finely sewed coat you wear. You could not sew it that way if you did not know where the light is.”

Thus they argued.

Then the aunt said, “If you wish to find the light, go far to the south. Go on snowshoes. You will know the place when you get there.”

The boy put on his snowshoes and set off toward the south. Many days he travelled and the darkness was always the same. When he had gone a very long way he saw far in front of him a ray of light. Then the boy hurried on. As he went farther the light showed again, plainer than before. Then it vanished for a time. Thus it kept appearing and vanishing.

At last the boy came to a large hill. One side was brightly lighted; the other side was black as night. Close to the hill was a hut. A man was shovelling snow from in front of it. The man tossed the snow high in the air; then the light could not be seen until the snow fell. Then the man tossed the snow again. So the light kept appearing and disappearing. Close to the house was a large ball of fire.

The boy stopped and began to plan how to steal the ball of light.

Then the boy walked up to the man. He said, “Why do you throw up the snow? It hides the light from our village.”

Photograph by B. B. Dobbs
Ice Hummocks on Bering Sea
From photograph loaned by the Smithsonian Institution
Snow Shovel, Pick, Rake, and Maul

[63] The man said, “I am not hiding the light. I am cleaning away the snow. Who are you? Where did you come from?”

The boy said, “It is so dark at our village I do not want to stay there. I came here to live with you.”

“All the time?” asked the man.

“Yes,” said the boy.

The man said, “All right. Come into the house with me.” Then he dropped his shovel on the ground. He stooped down to lead the way through the underground passage into the house. He let the curtain fall in front of the door as he passed, because he thought the boy was close beside him.

Then the boy caught up the ball of light. He put it in the turned-up flap of his fur coat. Then he picked up the shovel and ran away toward the north. He ran until his feet were tired. Then he put on his raven coat and flew away. He flew rapidly to the north. Raven could hear the man shriek behind him. The man was pursuing him. But Raven flew faster. Then the man cried, “Keep the light; but give me my shovel.”

Raven said, “No, you cannot have your shovel. You made our village dark.” So Raven flew faster.

Now as Raven flew, he broke off a little piece of the light. This made day. Then he went on a long time in darkness, until he broke off another piece of light. [64] Thus it was day again. So as Raven flew to the village he broke off the pieces of light. When Raven reached the kashim of his own village he threw away the last piece. He went into the kashim and said to the shamans, “I have brought back the light. It will be light and then dark, so as to make day and night.”

After this Raven went out upon the ice because his home was on the seacoast. Then a great wind arose, and the ice drifted with him across the sea to the land on the other side.

Thus Raven brought back the light. It is night and day, as he said it would be. But sometimes the nights are very long because Raven travelled a long way without throwing away a piece of the light.



Tlingit (Wrangell)

WHEN Raven had grown quite large he walked down the bank of the Nass River one day, until he heard the noise people were making in the darkness as they fished for olachen. Now all the people in the world lived at one place on the Nass River. They had heard that Raven-at-the-head-of-Nass had something called “daylight.” They were afraid of it and talked about it a great deal.

Raven shouted to the fishermen, “Why do you make so much noise? If you make so much noise I will bring the daylight here.”

Eight canoe-loads of people were fishing there. They said, “You are not Nas-ca-ki-yel. You are not Raven-at-the-head-of-Nass. How can you have the daylight?” They kept on making much noise.

Then Raven opened the box and daylight shot over the world like lightning. They made still more noise. So Raven opened the box wide and there was daylight everywhere.

Then the people were frightened. Some ran into the [66] woods and some jumped into the water. Those that had clothes of fur seal skins jumped into the water; they became seals. Those which had clothing of bear skins, marten skins, and wolf skins, ran into the woods and turned into grizzly bears, martens, and wolves.

Copyrighted by F. H. Nowell
Eskimo in Waterproof Coat made of Walrus Intestines
A grouse
“Raven said to Grouse, ‘You know that Sea-lion is your grandchild’”



Tlingit (Wrangell)

NOW Raven went around among the birds, teaching them. He said to Grouse, “You are to live in a place where it is wintry. You will always live in a place high up so you will have plenty of breezes.” Then Raven gave Grouse four white pebbles. He said, “You will never starve so long as you have these four pebbles.”

Raven also said to Grouse, “You know that Sea-lion is your grandchild. You must get four more pebbles and give them to him.” That is why the sea-lion has four large pebbles. It throws these at hunters. If one strikes a person, it kills him. From this story it is known that Grouse and Sea-lion understand each other.

Raven said to Ptarmigan, “You will be the maker of snowshoes. You will know how to travel in snow.” It was from these birds that the Athapascans learned how to make snowshoes, and how to put the lacings on.

Raven came next to Wild Canary, that lives all the year around in the Tlingit country. He said, “You [68] will be head among the very small birds. You are not to live on the same food as human beings. Keep away from them.”

Then Raven said to Robin, “You will make people happy by your whistle. You will be a good whistler.”

Then Raven said to Kun, the Flicker, “You will be chief among the birds of your size. You will not be found in all places. You will seldom be seen.”

Raven said to Lugan, a bird that lives far out on the ocean, “You will seldom be seen near shore. You will live on lonely rocks, far out on the ocean.”

When Raven came to Snipes, he said, “You will always go in flocks. You will never go out alone.” Therefore we always see snipes in flocks.

Raven said to Asq-aca-tci, a small bird with yellow-green plumage, “You will always go in flocks. You will always be on the tree tops. That is where your food is.”

Raven said to a very small bird, Kotlai, the size of a butterfly, “You will be liked. You will be seen only to give good luck. People will hear your voice, but seldom see you.”

Then to Blue-jay Raven said, “You will have very fine clothes. You will be a good talker. People will take colors from your clothes.”

Figurehead on Indian Canoe
Three crows sitting on a tree stump
“Raven said to Crow, ‘You will make lots of noise. You will be great talkers’”

Then Raven said to Xunkaha, “You will never be [69] seen unless the north wind is going to blow.” That is what the name Xunkaha means.

To Crow, Raven said, “You will make lots of noise. You will be great talkers.” That is why, when you hear one crow, you hear a lot of others right afterward.

Raven said to Gusyiadul, “You will be seen only when warm weather is coming. Never come near except when warm weather is coming.”

To Humming-bird Raven said, “People will enjoy seeing you. If a person sees you once, he will want to see you again.”

Raven said to Eagle, “You will be very powerful and above all birds. Your eyesight will be very good. It will be easy for you to get what you want.” Then Raven put talons on the eagle and said they would be useful to him.

Thus Raven taught all the birds.




NOW Raven went off to a certain place and created West Wind. Raven said to it, “You shall be my son’s daughter. No matter how hard you blow, you shall hurt nobody.”

Raven also made South Wind. When South Wind climbs on top of a rock it never ceases to blow.

Raven made North Wind and on top of a mountain he made a house for it with ice hanging down the sides. Then he went in and said to North Wind, “Your back is white.” That is why mountains are white with snow.

A dogsled travelling near forest and mountains
“Raven said to North Wind, ‘Your back is white’” (On the Road to Fairbanks)
Photograph by C. L. Andrews
Old Russian Blockhouse, at Sitka



Tlingit (Wrangell)

RAVEN-AT-THE-HEAD-OF-NASS tried to make human beings, at the same time, out of a rock and out of a leaf. But he created human beings out of the leaf first. Then Raven showed a leaf to people. He said, “You see this leaf. You are to be like it. When it falls off the branch and rots there is nothing left of it.”

That is why there is death in the world. If men had come from the hard rocks there would be no death. Years ago, when people were getting old, they would say, “It is unlucky that we did not come from the rock. We are made from leaves; therefore we must die.”



Tlingit (Wrangell)

ONCE Raven came to a large town which was deserted. Every one seemed to have died. Raven entered the largest house, but he felt some one continually pushing him away. Yet he saw no one there. It was a ghost house. The place was called Ghost Town.

Raven then loaded a canoe with provisions from the empty houses and started to paddle away. He did not notice that a long rope was fastened to the stern of the canoe and to a tree on the shore. When Raven had paddled the length of the rope, the canoe was pulled right back to the beach. All the provisions were carried back to the houses. Yet Raven could see no one. Then a ghost dropped a large stone on Raven’s foot. This made him very lame.



Haida (Queen Charlotte Islands)

AFTER Raven had made the crows black because they had eaten his salmon—crows had always been white before that, they say—he met some people with feathers on their heads and gambling-stick bags on their backs. They said, “What is the matter?”

Raven said, “Oh, my father and mother are dead.”

Then they started home with him. These were the Beavers, they say. They were going out to gamble, but turned back on account of him.

The next morning they put their gambling-stick bags upon their backs and started off again. Raven flew around behind a screen. Lo, a lake lay there! In a creek flowing from it was a fish trap. The fish trap was so full of salmon it looked as if some one were shaking it. There were plenty of salmon in it and in the lake were very small canoes passing each other. Several points of land were red with cranberries.

Raven pulled out the fish trap, folded it together, and laid it down at the edge of the lake. Then he [74] rolled it up with the lake and house, put them under his arm, and pulled himself up into a tree that stood close by. They were not heavy for his arm. He had rolled the lake up just as though it were a blanket. Raven sat in the tree half-way up.

After a while some one came. His house and the lake were not there. After he had looked about him for some time, he looked up. Lo, there sat Raven with their property!

Then the Beavers went quickly to that tree. They began cutting it with their teeth. When it began to fall, Raven went to another one. When that began to fall, he went to another. After the Beavers had cut down many trees in this way, they gave it up. They then travelled about for a long time, they say. After a long time, they found a lake and settled down on it.

Then after Raven had travelled around for a while with the lake, he came to a large open place. He unrolled the lake there. There it lay. He did not let the fish trap or the house go. He kept them to teach the Seaward (mainland) people and the Shoreward (Queen Charlotte Islands) people, they say.

A lake surrounded by forest
“Raven unrolled the lake there. There it lay”
“The man-spirit was inside the Skana”




A LONG time ago, a canoe-load of Indians were out seal-hunting. The weather was calm and the sea was smooth. Then a killer whale kept near the canoe and the young men threw stones at it. They hit the fin of the killer whale with several stones. Then the whale went to the beach. Soon the men in the canoe saw a smoke rising from the beach. They went to see who was there. When they reached the shore, there was not the Skana, the killer whale, but a man cooking some food.

The man said, “Why did you throw stones at my canoe? You have broken it. Now go get cedar withes in the woods and mend it.”

So the men mended the broken canoe. When they had finished, the man said, “Turn your backs to the water. Cover your heads with your fur robes. Don’t look until I call you.” They all did as he told them. They heard the canoe grate on the beach as it was hauled down into the water. Then the man said, “Look now.”

[76] They looked and there was the canoe in the water. But when the canoe came to the second breaker, it went under. When it came to the surface, behold!—there was no canoe. There was a Skana—a killer whale. The man-spirit was inside the Skana.




[3] Although the patterns of the Chilkat blankets vary, nearly all of them show, in symbolic weaving, the bear with his heart between his eyes, Gonaqadet the sea spirit, the boy, and the father of the chief’s daughter. In some of them also, the raven and the thunderbird figure. Only the Indians can really interpret the various weavings, and their interpretations vary.

IN the days of the animal people, long, long ago, all the animals were divided into different tribes. In those days also, animals could take off their furry skins; then they looked just like people.

Now in those days long ago, a group of women once went out to search for wild celery in the early spring. They found it growing here and there, and spent all day gathering it. Then they tied it in bundles and started home with it on their backs.

Now among these women was the daughter of a chief. She picked twigs as she followed in the trail in the evening light, and then slipped into the footprints of a brown bear. The jolt loosened her pack. She stopped to readjust her bundle of celery. She said sharp words about bears. Then she hastened on to rejoin her companions who were already lost in the dusk.

[78] Suddenly the chief’s daughter heard footsteps behind her. A handsome young man joined her. Soon he asked her to be his wife. The chief’s daughter consented, so she went home with him. They walked far, far into the woods until they came to Bear village. Then the chief’s daughter knew that her lover belonged to the Bear tribe.

After a while the chief’s daughter became unhappy. She wanted to go back to her father’s home, but the Bear tribe watched her so she could not escape.

One day chief’s daughter reached the shore. Out on the water she saw a fisherman in a boat, and she called to him to rescue her. The fisherman touched his canoe with his killing club and in one bound it sprang to the shore, just as the Bear and some of his tribe appeared. The fisherman began to fight Bear, but he could not kill him. Then the chief’s daughter told him to strike Bear between the eyes, because his heart was there. So Bear was killed.

The fisherman took the chief’s daughter in his canoe. But behold!—he was no fisherman at all. It was Gonaqadet, the spirit of the sea. So the woman married Gonaqadet, who was very kind to her.

A Chilkat Blanket
Copyrighted by F. H. Nowell
Alaskan Baskets

After a long while, the chief’s daughter became unhappy again. She wanted her son to be trained by her people, as the custom was. Then Gonaqadet permitted [79] her to return to earth with the boy, but he made her promise that she would weave him a blanket telling of her life and his courtship. So the woman returned to earth from the sea. Then she wove for Gonaqadet the blanket. This was the first Chilkat blanket.

Now one day Yel, the Raven, wandering along the seashore, entered a great cavern under the sea. There he found Gonaqadet, wearing a beautiful Chilkat blanket. Gonaqadet welcomed Raven, and offered him food. He placed food before him in two long carved platters. After Raven had feasted, Gonaqadet taught him many dances and gave him a copy of the blanket pattern. Then Raven taught the people how to weave the blankets, but he taught the Tsimshian tribe first. Afterward the Chilkats learned how to weave them.



Eskimo (Lower Yukon)

IN the beginning there was water over all the earth. There were no people. It was very cold. The water was covered with ice, and the ice pieces ground together, making long ridges and hummocks.

Then a man came from the other side of the great water and stopped on the ice hills. He took for his wife a wolf. Then their children grew up. Each pair spoke a different language from that of their parents, or from that of their brothers and sisters. So each pair went out in a different direction and built houses on the ice hills. Then the snow melted and ran down the hillsides. It scooped out ravines and river beds and made the earth. Thus the earth was made and the people. That is why so many different languages are spoken.

Keystone Canyon
Photograph by C. L. Andrews
The “S” Glacier



Athapascan (Upper Yukon)

A LONG time ago, water flowed all over the world. There was one family and they made a big raft. Then they put animals on the raft.

Now there was no land but all water, so the people wanted to make a world. The man tied a cord around a beaver and sent him down to find the bottom of the water. But the beaver got only half-way and drowned. Then the man tied a string around a muskrat and sent him down. Muskrat drowned, but he reached the bottom and got a little mud on his hands. Then the man took the mud out of the muskrat’s hands into his palm. He let it dry and then crumbled it to dust. Then he blew the dust out of his palm all over the waters. This made the world.



Eskimo (Bering Straits)

LONG, long ago, a man and a woman came down from the sky and landed on one of the Diomede Islands. They lived there a long while, but they had no children. At last one day the man took some walrus ivory, and from this he carved five dolls, just like people. Then he took some wood and made from it five more dolls. Then, one night, when all were finished, he set them off to one side, all ten in a row. The next morning the dolls had become people. The ivory dolls became men, therefore they are brave and hardy; but the wooden dolls became women, therefore they are soft and timid. From these ten dolls came all the people of the Diomede Islands.



Eskimo (Bering Straits)

LONG, long ago there were many men living in the northland, but there was no woman among them. Far away in the southland lived one woman. At last one of the young men in the northland travelled south to the home of the woman and married her. He thought, “I have a wife, while the son of the headsman has none.”

Now the son of the headsman had also started to travel to the home of the woman in the southland. He stood in the passage to the house and heard the husband talking to himself. So he waited until all the people were asleep. Then the son of the headsman crept into the house and began to drag the woman away. He caught her by her shoulders.

Then the husband was awakened. He ran to the passage and caught the woman by her feet. So the men pulled until they pulled the woman in two. The son of the headsman carried the upper part of her body to the north. Then they began to carve wood to make each woman complete. Thus there were now two women.

[84] The woman in the south was a good dancer; but she could not do fine needlework in sewing the furs, because her hands were wooden. The woman in the north was a poor dancer, because her feet were wooden, but she could sew with fine stitches in the furs. So all the women of the north are skilful with their hands, and all the women of the south are good dancers, even to this day. Thus you may know that the tale is true.

Photograph by C. L. Andrews
The Yukon, Taken at Midnight in June
Photograph by C. L. Andrews
Islands in Sitka Sound



Eskimo (Bering Straits)

ONE day Man hunted for seals along the seashore. Many seals were there, but as Man crept carefully up to them, they slipped into the water. At last only one seal was left on the rocks. Man crept up to it carefully, but just as he was about to catch the seal, it slipped into the water.

Then Man stood up. His breast was full of a strange feeling. Water began to drop from his eyes. He put up his hand and caught the drops; thus he saw that they were really water. Then loud cries came from his breast and more water came out of his eyes. Now Man’s son saw him coming. He called to his wife that Man was making a strange noise. So they went down to the seashore. They were surprised to see water coming out of his eyes. Then Man told them he had tried to catch seals. He had crept carefully up, but they slipped into the water. Thus all the seals had escaped. Then water began to come out of the eyes [86] of the son and his wife. Loud cries came from their breasts. In this way people first learned to cry. Afterward, Man and his son killed a seal; then they made snares for more seals from its skin.



Eskimo (Lower Yukon)

A LONG time ago a man and his wife had no children. So one night the man went out of the house to find a solitary tree that grew on the tundra. First he saw a long track of bright light, like that made by the moon shining on the snow. It led across the tundra. So far, far along the trail of bright light travelled the man until he saw a beautiful tree, all alone, shining in the bright light. He took out his hunting knife, cut off part of the trunk, and went home again over the bright trail.

When the man reached home, he carved a boy doll from the wood and his wife made fur clothes for it. Then the man carved little wood dishes from the scraps of wood. The wife set the doll on the bench opposite the entrance, in the place of honor. She placed before it food and water.

That night, when all was dark, they heard low whistling sounds. The woman said, “Do you hear that? It was the doll.” When they made a light, they saw that [88] the doll had eaten the food and drunk the water. They saw that its eyes moved.

In the morning, the doll was gone. The man and his wife could not find it, but they saw the tracks of the boy doll leading away from the door. The tracks followed the direction of the trail of light which the man had followed the night before. So the man and his wife went into the house.

But Doll followed the bright path until he came to the edge of day, where the sky comes down to the earth. There were holes in the sky wall covered with gut-skin.

In the east, Doll saw the gut-skin cover over the hole in the sky wall bulging inward. Doll stopped and said, “It is very quiet in here. I think a little wind will make it better.” Doll drew his knife and cut the cover loose about the edge of the hole. A strong wind blew through, bringing with it a live reindeer. Looking through the hole, Doll saw another world, just like the earth. Then he drew the cover loosely over the hole, and said to East Wind, “Sometimes blow hard, sometimes lightly. Sometimes do not blow at all.”

Doll walked along the sky wall to another opening at the southeast. The gut-skin cover bulged inward. Then Doll cut the cover loose at the edges, and a great gale swept in. It brought reindeer, trees, and bushes. Then Doll fastened the cover lightly and said, [89] “Sometimes blow hard, sometimes lightly. Sometimes do not blow at all.”

From photograph loaned by the Smithsonian Institution
Tool and Trinket Boxes
From photograph loaned by the Smithsonian Institution
Spoons and Ladles

Then Doll came to a hole in the south, and the gut-skin cover bulged inward. He cut the edges loose and a hot wind rushed in. It brought rain, and spray from the great salt sea which lay beyond the sky hole on that side. Then Doll closed the opening lightly and said to South Wind, “Sometimes blow hard, sometimes lightly. Sometimes do not blow at all.”

Doll walked along the sky wall to the west. There he saw another opening, covered by gut-skin. So he cut the edges loose, and West Wind swept in, bringing with him rain, with sleet and spray from the gray ocean. Then Doll fastened the edges of the gut-skin loosely, and said to West Wind, “Sometimes blow hard, sometimes lightly. Sometimes do not blow at all.”

So Doll passed along the sky wall to the northwest. When he cut the edges of the gut-skin covering, a blast of cold wind rushed in, bringing snow and ice. Doll became cold; he almost froze. Therefore Doll closed the hole quickly, saying, “Sometimes blow hard, sometimes lightly. Sometimes do not blow at all.”

Again Doll went along the sky wall to the north, but it became so cold he had to leave it. So he went toward the centre of the earth, away from the sky wall, until he saw the opening to the north. Then he went to the hole [90] in the sky wall, but so great was the cold that Doll feared to cut the strings. He waited. Then he cut the strings quickly. The terrible North Wind swept in, bringing with him great masses of snow and ice. North Wind strewed the snow and ice all over the earth plain. Then Doll closed the hole very quickly, yet he fastened it loosely. He said to North Wind, “Sometimes blow hard, sometimes lightly. Sometimes do not blow at all.”

Then Doll travelled into the midst of the earth plain. He looked up and saw the sky arch, resting upon long, slender poles, like a tepee, but of beautiful blue material. Then Doll went back to the village where he was made.



Athapascan (Upper Yukon)

A LONG time ago, when all were men, there was no wind. Now Bear used to go about with a bag on his back. The animal people wanted to know what was in the bag. Many times they asked Bear but he would not tell them. One day Bear fell asleep with the bag on his back. Then a man saw him asleep. The man cut the bag and found the wind in it. Therefore the wind escaped and has never since been caught.



Tlingit (Wrangell)

AFTER Raven left the Land Otters, he came to Taku. There North Wind lived in a cliff at the mouth of the inlet. Raven stayed there with him.

Now North Wind is very proud and shines all over with what the Indians think are icicles. So the Indians never say anything against North Wind, no matter how long it blows, because the spirits give it power. Years ago people thought that there were spirits in all the large cliffs upon the islands and would pray to those cliffs. This was because Raven once lived in this cliff with North Wind.

Skagway River, from Porcupine Hill
Copyrighted by C. L. Andrews
Middle Lake and Bridge on the ’97 Trail




A HIGH-CASTE man married first the daughter of East Wind. When he heard of the pretty daughter of North Wind he married her also. He took her back to the village where his first wife lived.

Then people said to the daughter of East Wind, “There is a pretty woman here. Her clothes sparkle all over. They make a tingling noise.”

The daughter of East Wind was very jealous. She made the east wind to blow. It began to grow warm and cloudy. Then the daughter of North Wind lost all her sparkling clothing. The icicles and the frost melted away. Then the daughter of North Wind was no longer beautiful.




A MAN named Natsayane, belonging to the Seal People, made the killer whales. He first tried to carve them out of red cedar, then out of the hemlock, and then out of all other kinds of woods. He took each set of figures to the beach and tried to make them swim; but they only floated on the surface. Last of all he tried yellow cedar. Then the killer whales swam.

Natsayane on one marked white lines from the corners of its mouth back to its head. He said, “This is going to be the white-mouthed killer whale.”

When Natsayane put them into the water, he said, “Go up into the inlets. Go up into the head of the bays. Hunt for seal, for halibut, and for things under the sea. Do not hurt human beings.” Before this people did not know what a killer whale was.

When the Killer whale tribe start north, the Seal People say, “Here comes another battle. Here come [95] the warriors.” They say this because the killer whales are always after seals. The killer whale which always swims ahead is the red killer whale, called the “killer whale spear” because it is long and slender.



Tlingit (Wrangell)

AFTER Raven had created people, a man died. Raven came into his house and saw his wife and children weeping around him. Raven raised with both hands the blanket of the dead man and held it over his body. So he brought him back to life.

Now Raven and the man both told the woman there was no death. She would not believe them. Then Raven said to her, “Lie down and go to sleep.”

When the woman slept she saw a wide trail. There were many people on it and many fierce animals. Good people had to pass this trail in order to live again. At the end of the trail there was a broad river, and a canoe came to her from the other side. When she crossed the river, people came to her. They said, “You had better go back. We are not in a good place. We are hungry here and can get no water to drink. We are cold.”

That is why people burn the bodies of the dead and place food in the fire for them to eat. If they were not burned their spirits would be cold. That is why food and drink are given to them at the feast of the dead.

Face of Davidson Glacier
From photograph loaned by the Smithsonian Institution
“The Land of the Dead”—Graveyard at Rasboinsky



Eskimo (Lower Yukon)

A YOUNG woman on the Lower Yukon died. When she died she went to sleep for a while. Then some one shook her arm and said, “Get up. Do not sleep. You are dead.” Then she saw she was in her grave box and the shade of her grandfather was shaking her. Then she went with her grandfather back to the village, but the country she knew had disappeared. In its place was a strange village which reached as far as the eye could see.

As she entered the village, the old man told her to go into one of the houses. As soon as she entered it, a woman picked up a stick of wood and raised it to strike her. The woman said, “What do you want here?”

So the young woman ran out, crying to her grandfather. He said, “This is the village of the dog shades. Now you see how living dogs feel when beaten by people.”

They came to another village. Here she saw a man [98] lying on the ground with grass growing up through his joints. He could move, but he could not rise. The grandfather said this shade was punished for pulling up and chewing grass stems when he was on earth. Then the grandfather suddenly disappeared.

The girl followed a trail to another village, but she came to a swift river. This river was made up of the tears of people who on earth weep for the dead. When the girl saw she could not cross the river, she began to weep. At once a mass of straw floated down the river to her. Upon this, as a bridge, she crossed the stream. Before she reached the village the shades smelled her. They crowded around her, saying, “Who is she? Where does she come from?” They looked for the totem marks on her clothing.

Some one said, “Where is she? Where is she?” and her grandfather came toward her. He led her into a house nearby and there was her grandmother. The old woman asked her if she were thirsty. The girl looked about and saw only one water vessel made like those of her own village. This had in it their own Yukon water. It had been given them at the festival of the dead by the girl’s father. The other tubs had only the water of the village of the shades. The old woman gave the girl a piece of deer fat. This, too, had been given at the festival of the dead. Then the [99] grandmother explained that the guide had been the grandfather because the last person thought of by a dying person hurries away to show the road to the new shade. Thoughts are heard in the land of the shades.




THE young wife of a chief’s son died and the young man was so sorrowful he could not sleep. Early one morning he put on his fine clothes and started off. He walked all day and all night. He went through the woods a long distance, and then to a valley. The trees were very thick, but he could hear voices far away. At last he saw light through the trees and then came to a wide, flat stone on the edge of a lake.

Now all the time this young man had been walking in the Death Trail. He saw houses and people on the other side of the lake. He could see them moving around. So he shouted, “Come over and get me.” But they did not seem to hear him. Upon the lake a little canoe was being paddled about by one man, and all the shore was grassy. The chief’s son shouted a long while but no one answered him. At last he whispered to himself, “Why don’t they hear me?”

At once a person across the lake said, “Some one is shouting.” When he whispered, they heard him.

A simple wooden cross and an abandoned sled on a hillside
Perry Island, Bogosloff Group, Newly Risen from the Sea
“The end of the Death Trail”

[101] The voice said also, “Some one has come up from Dreamland. Go and bring him over.”

When the chief’s son reached the other side of the lake, he saw his wife. He was very happy to see her again. People asked him to sit down. They gave him something to eat, but his wife said, “Don’t eat that. If you eat that you will never get back.” So he did not eat it.

Then his wife said, “You had better not stay here long. Let us go right away.” So they were taken back in the same canoe. It is called Ghost’s Canoe and it is the only one on that lake. They landed at the broad, flat rock where the chief’s son had stood calling. It is called Ghost’s Rock, and is at the very end of the Death Trail. Then they started down the trail, through the valley and through the thick woods. The second night they reached the chief’s house.

The chief’s son told his wife to stay outside. He went in and said to his father, “I have brought my wife back.”

The chief said, “Why don’t you bring her in?”

The chief laid down a nice mat with fur robes on it for the young wife. The young man went out to get his wife, but when he came in, with her, they could see only him. When he came very close, they saw a deep shadow following him. When his wife sat down and [102] they put a marten skin robe around her, it hung about the shadow just as if a person were sitting there. When she ate, they saw only the spoon moving up and down, but not the shadow of her hands. It looked very strange to them.

Afterward the chief’s son died and the ghosts of both of them went back to Ghost Land.




LONG ago, a man’s wife was stolen from him. He cared for her so much he thought he would follow her. So he began to walk. He thought he was walking along the beach, but he was following a wide trail through the woods. He walked on for a long time with his head bent down, until he saw smoke ahead. When he came near he saw a woman tanning a skin. He showed her a necklace he had made. He said, “I will give you this string if you will tell me where my wife is.”

The woman said, “She is over at the next camp.”

So he at last reached his wife and stayed there a long time.

Now the people of this village wanted to kill him. They kindled a fire and began to drag him to it. He said, “Oh, how glad I am! I want to die.” Then they stopped and began to drag him toward the water. The man said he was afraid of water, so they threw him in. He came up in the middle of the lake.

People said, “See him. He is looking at us.”

[104] The man laughed. He said, “The water is just where I like to be.” He said this because he was a good swimmer and there was much rain in his country. He stayed in the water all the time he remained in that country.

Now all this while the man and his wife had really been in the sky. Now they wanted to get down. They started back to the house of a certain woman. She was the spider. The house was her web. The woman put them into a web and began to lower them to the earth. Before they started, the woman said, “If you get caught on anything, jerk backward and forward until the web comes loose.” She thought they might get caught on the edges of the clouds. So the man and his wife reached the earth safely and the web was drawn up into the sky.



Eskimo (Port Clarence)

ONCE upon a time, all the people were together in a singing house. While they were dancing the sun disappeared. No one knew where it had gone. Because it was so dark, people could not go hunting and soon their provisions were exhausted. Then they told the women to mend their clothing carefully and to make as many boots as possible. These they put into bags. Then the people set out to search for the sun.

They followed the seacoast. They travelled so far they wore out their boots, so they put on new boots from their bags. Yet it was dark all the time.

After many days they came to a country where were many, many seals and walrus and deer. The language of the people was different from their own. After a while they learned to talk it a little. They asked these people where to find the sun.

These people said that the sun was far off. Before they came to the sun’s country they would come to five places. This was the first place. But in the fourth [106] place beyond there lived a woman who kept both the sun and moon in her house.

So they went on. It was very cold and they ran as fast as they could because it was so cold. Then their food gave out. But they reached a country where there was plenty to eat. Here the people spoke a strange language. After a while they learned to talk it a little. These people told them that at the third place they reached they would find a woman who kept the sun and moon in her house.

The people ran on. They ran because it was so very cold. Then when their food was gone, they reached another country where there was plenty of food. The language of the people was different from their own. But after a while they learned to understand it a little. These people said that at the second place which they would reach lived a woman named Itudluqpiaq who had both sun and moon in her house, but it was doubtful if they would be able to get them.

Then they went on again. They had to run as fast as they could to keep warm. It was very cold. When their food was almost gone, they reached the country of the dwarfs. It was a country with plenty of food, walrus and seal and deer. The dwarfs tried to run away when they saw the large men coming. But the people caught them. The dwarfs said that at the next [107] place lived the woman Itudluqpiaq who had both sun and moon.

Photograph by B. B. Dobbs
Walrus Tusks
Copyrighted by Case and Draper
A Shaman

As the people ran on from the country of the dwarfs, they found ice and driftwood in their way. They kicked it all aside. At that time the people were very strong and able to lift heavy stones.

After they had run a long way, they saw a singing house. When they came near, they went very slowly because they were afraid. At last one of the men tied his jacket around his waist and his trousers around his knees. Then he crept cautiously through the entrance and put his head through the door at the bottom of the floor. He saw a young woman, Itudluqpiaq, sitting in the middle of the house toward the rear. Her father was sitting in the middle of the house on the right-hand side and her mother on the left-hand side. At the back of the house, in the right-hand corner on the rafter, hung a large ball; in the left-hand corner a small ball.

The man whispered, “Itudluqpiaq, we came to ask you for some light.”

The mother said, “Give them the small ball.”

The man refused the small ball. He asked for the large one. Then Itudluqpiaq took it down and gave it a kick. It fell right into the entrance hole.

The people took the ball and ran outside. Then they tore the ball to pieces and the daylight came out of it.

[108] It was not so warm at once, but it grew warmer day after day. If they had taken the small ball it would have been light, but it would have remained cold. The small ball was the moon.



Eskimo (Bering Straits)

FAR away in the moon lives a great chief and shamans with strong magic visit him there. A long time ago a shaman went to visit the great chief. He flew like a bird up as high as the sky because of his magic. The sky was a land just like the earth, only the grass was long, and grew downward toward the earth. And the grass was filled with snow. When the wind blows up in the sky it rustles the long grass stems, hanging downward, and loosens the snow. When the wind blows the snow loose in the sky, it falls down upon the earth from the long grass stems, and men call it a snowstorm.

Up in the sky, among the grass, are many small, round lakes. At night these shine and men call them stars.

But the Malemut tribes say that the north wind is the breath of a giant. When he builds a snow house and the snow flies from his shovel, then there is a snowstorm upon earth.



Eskimo (Lower Yukon)

ONCE upon a time, long, long ago, in a village on the great river, lived four brothers and a sister. There was also a small boy who was a great friend of his sister. The brothers were hunters and in the fall hunted at sea, but after the Bladder-feast was over they went to the mountains and hunted reindeer. But the boy was lazy.

Now the boy fell in love with the girl. One day the girl took up a dish of meat and berries and went out of the house. There she saw a ladder leading up into the sky, with a line hanging down by the side of it. Taking hold of the line, the girl climbed the ladder going up into the sky. Then her brothers saw her and began at once to scold the boy.

The boy caught up his sealskin trousers. Being in a hurry, he thrust his right leg into them and drew a deerskin sock upon the other foot as he ran outside the house. There he saw the girl, far, far up in the sky, and he began to climb the ladder to her. But the girl floated far away, the boy following her.

Box Canyon on White Pass and Yukon Route
Near Valdez Narrows

[111] Now the girl became the sun and the boy the moon. Ever he pursues her but never overtakes her. When the sun sinks in the west, the moon rises in the east, but always too late. The moon has no food, and sometimes almost fades away. Then the sun reaches out the dish of meat and berries and the moon becomes fat again.



Athapascan (Upper Yukon)

LONG ago, in the days of Raven, there was a great famine. No one in the village had anything to eat. Then a boy dreamed that they would kill many caribou. Then the hunters began to find caribou and to kill them. The boy said when they killed all the caribou that the leader of the herd must be given to him. The boy’s uncle gave him caribou, but not the leader, because he did not believe the boy dreamed what he said. Then the boy cried two nights because he did not get the right caribou.

The next morning the boy was gone. Now this boy wore trousers of marten skin. When they searched for him, they found only the left leg of his trousers on a pole in the smoke hole. So they knew the boy had gone away through the smoke hole.

The boy went up into the moon. He was seen there the next night. His father and mother knew it was the boy because the right leg was larger than the left. The left leg had no trousers because it had been caught in the smoke hole.




A LONG time ago fire was seen coming through the air from the north. It looked like a huge animal. Its face was fire. Fire came from its mouth and also from its back. Flames of fire shot from its paws. The Thing, moving backward, thundered through the air.

In the olden times, these monsters came often. Now they have not been seen for a long time.




ONCE a Huna man and his wife were paddling along in a canoe, about midnight, in search of seals. The man kept hearing a noise around his head like that made by a bird. At last he hit the thing with his hand and knocked it into the canoe. It was shaped like a bird, only with eyelids hanging far over, and its name was Ta, Sleep. He gave the bird to his wife, saying, “Here, you can keep this for your own.” So she gave it to her relatives who built a house called Sleep House. All the poles in it were carved to look like this bird. After that the man got very tired without being able to sleep. At last he ran away into the forest.

Frozen Waterfall
A river winding through the landscape
Photograph by C. L. Andrews
“The wind blows over the Yukon”




[4] Transcribed by J. A. Dall.

THE wind blows over the Yukon,
My husband hunts the deer on the Koyukun Mountains.
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one.

“There is no wood for the fire.
The stone axe is broken, my husband carries the other.
Where is the sun-warmth? Hid in the dam of the beaver, waiting the spring-time?
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, wake not!
“Look not for ukali, old woman.
Long since the cache was emptied, and the crow does not light on the ridge pole!
Long since my husband departed. Why does he wait in the mountains?
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, softly.
[116] “Where is my own?
Does he lie starving on the hillside? Why does he linger?
Comes he not soon I will seek him among the mountains.
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, sleep.
“The crow has come, laughing,
His beak is red, his eyes glisten, the false one.
‘Thanks for a good meal to Kuskokala the shaman.
On the sharp mountain quietly lies your husband.’
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, wake not!
“‘Twenty deer’s tongues tied to the pack on his shoulders;
Not a tongue in his mouth to call to his wife with.
Wolves, foxes, and ravens are tearing and fighting for morsels.
Tough and hard are the sinews; not so the child in your bosom?’
Ahmi, Ahmi, sleep, little one, wake not!
“Over the mountain slowly staggers the hunter.
Two bucks’ thighs on his shoulders, with bladders of fat between them.
Twenty deer’s tongues in his belt. Go, gather wood, old woman!
[117] Off flew the crow,—liar, cheat, and deceiver!
Wake, little sleeper, wake, and call to your father!
“He brings you backfat, marrow, and venison fresh from the mountain.
Tired and worn, he has carved a toy of the deer’s horn,
While he was sitting and waiting long for the deer on the hillside.
Wake and see the crow, hiding himself from the arrow!
Wake, little one, wake, for here is your father!”




A DEER, although toothless, may accomplish something.[5]

[5] Deceptive appearances.

He is just now sleeping on a deerskin.[6]

[6] Comfort now but trouble ahead.

He wants to die with all his teeth in his head.[7]

[7] Too reckless to live to old age.

You think Nass River is always calm.[8]

[8] Foolhardiness of those who think everything favorable to them. The mouth of the Nass is very rough.

You mistake the corner of the house for the door.[9]

[9] A gross blunder.

What will you eat when the snow is on the north side of the trees?[10]

[10] Improvidence. At the end of winter food is always scarce.

More than one hundred figures walk in single file through the snow
Copyright, 1898, by E. A. Hegg
Travellers over the Chilkoot Pass (1891) after the Discovery of Gold
Looking Down Cut-off Canyon from below White Pass Summit




ONCE Fox, when very hungry, was travelling through the country. All at once he saw a goose with many goslings. Fox ran after them. As he ran he sang,

“I shall have your tender breasts before I go to sleep;
I shall have your tender breasts before I go to sleep.”

As Fox ran toward them, the geese came to water and plunged in. Fox followed slowly along the edge of the water. When he saw he could not get the geese, Fox became so angry he turned red all over—all except the tip of his tail.




NOW Beaver was the friend of Porcupine. Much they loved each other. Then Beaver invited Porcupine to his house on the large lake. There in the very middle of the lake was the house of Beaver. Now Beaver, on his part, liked the water, but Porcupine had no way to go from the shore to the lake, because he knew not how to swim. Therefore feared Porcupine that he should die should his stomach be filled with water, because he knew not how to swim. Therefore this did Beaver: from the lake to the land he went for Porcupine. Only twice rose Beaver above the water, going to where Porcupine was sitting on the shore.

Then said Beaver to Porcupine, “I carry you. Fast hold my neck.”

Porcupine was afraid. He said to Beaver, “I might die.”

“You shall not die.” Thus said the Beaver to the Porcupine.

Then went up Porcupine to the back of Beaver.

[121] Beaver said, “Fast hold my neck.”

Thus did Porcupine. Then swam Beaver out on the water. But not long did he swim. Beaver dived. Then much troubled was Porcupine because he knew not how to swim. Now the Beavers really own the country of the water, but among the mountains is the country of Porcupine.

Twice rose Beaver above the water. Then reached he the middle of the great lake where floated his home. But much troubled was Porcupine, lest he die in the water. Then they entered the house of Beaver. Then they ate. Now this for food had the Beaver: sticks were the food for his feast. Then really troubled was the Porcupine, there to eat sticks. Yet Porcupine ate the stick.

Well, then one day, said Beaver to Porcupine: “Friend, now we play.”

Then said Beaver how he would play: “I carry you. Four times I emerge from the water.”

“Surely I die.” Thus said the heart of Porcupine. Yet he agreed.

Beaver said, “Fast hold to my neck. Lie close against the nape of my neck.”

Then was ready the heart of Porcupine to die. Then dived Beaver. Yet first struck he the water with his tail. Thus he first splashed water into the face of [122] Porcupine. Then dived Beaver. Long was he under water. Then a little dead was Porcupine. His stomach was full of water. Three times the Beaver rose from the water. Then only once more remained. Then again dived Beaver. Almost dead was Porcupine. Then with him he returned. From lake to land he took him.

Then Porcupine went back to his tribe. When again he reached his tribe, to his house he invited the people. Then into the house of Porcupine went the invited ones. Then he told them what Beaver had done in his great house on the lake. He told the people what Beaver, who had invited him, had done. He said, “Almost dead was I through my friend.”

Then said his people, “Good! You also invite him. Also play with him.”

This did Porcupine. He also invited Beaver, his friend. To the house of Beaver did he send. Then came Beaver into the valley. Up he went. Then came he to the house of Porcupine. Then this did Porcupine: when Beaver entered into the house, Porcupine struck on the fireplace with his own tail. Then it burnt. Then Beaver made a song:

“In the middle burnt the tail of little Porcupine, pa!
In the middle burnt the tail of little Porcupine.”
Copyrighted by B. B. Dobbs
Dog Team with Record of 412 Miles in 72 Hours
Courtesy “Alaska-Yukon Magazine”
Siberian Husky

[123] Then ran Porcupine around in front of Beaver to play with his friend. Now when this was finished, what did the Porcupine? He got food for the Beaver to eat. Then this did the Porcupine: bark of a tree and leaves of a tree did he give him for a feast. Then, on his part, Beaver was afraid to eat. Then this said the Porcupine to his great friend, Beaver: “Eat fast, friend. Eat fast, friend.” Then so did the Beaver.

Then said Porcupine, “Friend,”—thus said he to Beaver—“to-morrow morning we play, you and I. There stands a tree on a grassy slope. There is my playground.”

Then they slept. But Porcupine sang,

“Now along the edge I walk . . . out falls my shooting star.”

Then spoke Porcupine to the sky, and the sky did so. Clear became the sky. The ground was ice in the morning.

Now again Porcupine invited the people to a feast for great Beaver. Then Porcupine said, “We play, friend. There stands my playground.”

Now very sharp was the cold. The ground was ice. Where water ran down, slippery was it with ice. But Beaver followed Porcupine. Then again was Beaver troubled. Always slippery were his hands, but long were the claws of Porcupine. Then Porcupine [124] returned to see great Beaver. Then said Porcupine, “Come, do it, friend.” Thus said Porcupine to great Beaver. But the Beaver could not cross, because icy was the mountain. Then this did the Porcupine: he took the hands of Beaver, then across he led him. Thus across he got. Porcupine was going to play with Beaver, just as he also did once. So they reached the place where stood the tree.

“Good! Go up!” Thus said Porcupine to Beaver. Then much troubled was Beaver. He was afraid.

“Well! See!” Thus said Porcupine. So Porcupine went up first. Up he went to the very top. Then he let go the top of the tree. As soon as he dropped, this he said, while coming down:

“An-de-be-laq! An-de-be-laq!”

Then he dropped on a stone, but arose. Not dead was he!

Then said Porcupine to Beaver, “See, friend! It is not hard.”

Then up on the tree carried he Beaver. He said, “Fast hold to my neck.” And very fast he held to the neck of Porcupine. Then when Porcupine reached near the top of the tree, he put Beaver on a branch. Then greatly afraid was Beaver for his hands were not good for holding fast to a tree. Only a Porcupine knows that, because long are his claws.

[125] Then thus said Porcupine: “Really hold fast, friend. I go down first.” The Beaver did so. All around the branch were his hands. Then Porcupine let go the tree. Into space he went. Again he said,

“An-de-be-laq! An-de-be-laq!”

Then once more he dropped on the stones, but not dead was he!

Much troubled was the heart of great Beaver, in holding the branch. Much troubled was he at falling. Then about the foot of the tree ran Porcupine. Then up he looked to where was his friend. Thus said Porcupine: “Go on, friend. It is not hard. Look at me. Not dead am I because I fell!”

Then Beaver let go the branch. Thus said Beaver as he fell,

“Loop! Lo-op!”[11]

[11] “Stone! Stone!”

Then Beaver struck the rocks. He lay on his back. He was dead.



Athapascan (Upper Yukon)

LONG ago a hungry marten went to an Indian camp. The Indians around the camp fire were eating salmon. Marten sat still and watched them. He was hungry and he watched this Indian and then that. Then an Indian threw at him a piece of red salmon. It struck Marten on the breast and the reddish mark is there, even to this day.

Copyrighted by F. H. Nowell
Totem Poles
Laplanders Milking Reindeer, near Port Clarence




NOW the Wolves had a feast on a prairie at the mouth of Skeena River. Then invited the Wolves to the feast all the Deer chiefs. At once came the invited Deer. At once they sat down on the prairie face to face with the Wolves.

Then said the Wolves to the Deer, “Laugh ye on the other side.”

“No,” thus said the Deer to the Wolves, “ye first laugh.”

“Well,” said the Wolves at once, “then we will laugh. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Go on, ye also. Ye also, on the other side, laugh.”

“Well,” said the Deer. Then they laughed, “Mm, mm, mm, mm, mm! Again also ye must laugh.”

“Well.” At once again laughed the Wolves: “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

At once the Deer were much afraid when they saw the great teeth of the Wolves. Then again said also the Wolves, “Go on! Laugh again, ye on the other side. Keep not your mouths closed when ye laugh. Not so [128] does any one laugh. Open wide your mouths when ye laugh.” Thus said the Wolves. “Now, laugh ye!”

At once then laughed the Deer: “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!” Thus laughed the Deer, opening their mouths. But they had no teeth. Then the Wolves saw that the Deer had no teeth. At once they attacked them. At once the Wolves bit them all over. At once they ate the Deer. Only a few escaped. Therefore now are the Deer afraid of Wolves.



Athapascan (Upper Yukon)

[12] The camp robber is the slate-colored Alaskan jay, troublesome for its habit of stealing food from the camps.

NOW in the days of the animal people, the camp robber was a medicine man. One time the people had nothing to eat, so they asked the medicine man to find food for them. Therefore for six nights the men dreamed of a way to find food. The camp robber was the sixth man. He dreamed on the sixth night. Then he called all the people together and told them to bring their snares with them. He took all the snares, make a pack of them, and put them on his back. But the people heaped up the snow in a great pile. Around this snow pile the camp robber walked, chanting and singing “By and by meat will come.” Thus he sang.

Then the camp robber reached into the snow and pulled out a caribou’s head by the horns. This was not a real caribou; it was the spirit caribou. So the camp robber painted the horns and tail red and sent it back into the snow heap. The next day a great herd of [130] caribou came. The one with red horns and tails was among them.

That is why an Indian never kills a camp robber when he steals food. He lets him go because he helped to find food for them in the days of the animal people, when the camp robber was a medicine man.

Photograph by C. L. Andrews
View of Skagway
Bering Sea, near Nome



Eskimo (Bering Straits)

ONE day in the autumn, long, long ago, the cranes were preparing to go southward. As they gathered in a great flock, they saw a beautiful girl standing alone near the village. The cranes wanted to take her with them. They gathered about and lifted her on their outspread wings. So they carried her into the air and far away. Now when the cranes were taking her up into the air, they circled below her closely so she could not fall. They also cried in loud, hoarse voices so that people could not hear her call for help. Therefore the cranes always circle about in autumn when preparing to fly southward, and utter loud hoarse cries.



Eskimo (Lower Yukon)

LONG, long ago there were many thunderbirds living in the mountains, but at last there were only two left. These birds made their home on the round top of a mountain overlooking the Yukon. They hollowed out a great basin on the summit for a nest, and from the rocky rims they could look down upon a village upon the river bank.

From this perch the thunderbirds, looking like a black cloud, would soar away, bringing back to their young a reindeer in their talons. Sometimes with a great noise like thunder they swooped down upon a fisherman in his kayak and carried him away. The man would be eaten by the young birds, and the kayak broken to bits in the nest. Every fall the young birds flew away into the northland, but the old birds remained in the nest. They had carried away so many fishermen that only the most daring would go out on the great river.

One day when a fisherman went to look at his traps, [133] he cautioned his wife not to leave the house for fear of the thunderbirds. During the morning, she needed fresh water and started for the river. A noise like thunder filled the air, a black shadow fell over her, and a thunderbird darted down upon her.

When the fisherman returned to his house, people of the village told him of the thunderbird. He made no answer. He took his bow and quiverful of war arrows and started for the mountain. When he reached the rim of the great nest, he looked in. The old birds were away. The nest was full of young eagles with fiery, shining eyes and shrill cries. The hunter fitted a war arrow, the string twanged, and the arrow killed a young thunderbird. So the hunter killed them all.

The hunter hid behind a great rock near the nest. When the old birds came home, the thunder of their wings was heard even across the great river; their cries of rage frightened the villagers on the river’s bank. The mother bird swooped down upon the hunter beside the rock. Quickly he fitted a war arrow, the string twanged, and the arrow bit deep into her throat. Then the mother bird, flapping her wings so that the hills shook, flew away to the northland.

The father bird circled overhead and then swooped down upon the hunter. He crouched below the rocks and the thunderbird’s great talons caught only the rock. [134] The hunter fitted a war arrow in his bow, the string twanged, and the heavy war arrow bit deep under his great wing. Spreading his wings like a black cloud in the sky, the thunderbird flew away to the northland.




LONG ago, when we were first born, people hated us. Then the Sky People brought war upon us. They destroyed us completely. One woman saved herself; she hid in a hole which she dug under a log.

Afterward various people came to her. “I wonder who can tell me about things,” she said. Grizzly Bear came near her.

“What can you do?” she asked.

“Whenever I catch a man, I slap my paws down upon him.”

The woman said, “That is nothing.”

Some one in the sun spoke to her. “How am I?” said a voice.

“What can you do?”

“My father in the sun peeps out through the clouds—the mottled clouds.”

So the woman married the child of the sun. He lowered down from the sky a great fort to protect the woman and her children. When the enemy saw that, they [136] came back. The father said, “When the enemy get too strong, put your minds on me.” So when the enemy became too strong, the woman and her children put their minds on Grandfather Sun. He peeped out through the clouds upon the enemy. It quickly became smoking hot. The sea water out there boiled. The enemy ran down quickly into the water and were all destroyed. Then the water stopped boiling. The grandchildren of Sun stayed inside their fort.

View of Eldorado
Scene on the White Pass and Yukon Route




A LONG time ago when some of the Kagwantan clan were catching herring at Town-at-mouth-of-lake, a bear came to the place where they were fishing. The bear reached down through the smoke hole and stole the herring they were drying. Then people said; “Who is this thief that is stealing our fish?” Because they said that, the grizzly bear killed all of them. Then the Kagwantan seized their spears and set out to kill the bears nearby. When they found them, the bears were lying in holes they had dug out for themselves. The people said to them, “Come out here. We will fight it out.” So the bears came out and the people killed them. They took the skins from the heads of the bears and preserved them. That is how the Kagwantan came to use the grizzly bear crest.




LONG ago, a man and his wife were crossing a large bay near Sitka when it became very foggy. They could not even see the water around their canoe. Then, in the thick fog, they heard singing. The song was:

We picked up a man;
We picked up a man;
You picked up a man.
They captured a man;
They captured a man;
You’ve captured a man.

The voice was so strong they could hear it reëcho among the mountains.

As the fog rose, the song came nearer and nearer. At last they saw the voice came from a wee little frog.

The man said: “This frog is mine. I shall claim it.”

His wife said, “No, it is mine. I shall claim it.”

Thus they argued. At last the man let his wife take the frog.

The woman took it ashore, treating it just like a child. She took it up into the woods, put it down by a lake, and left it there. That is why the Kiksadi clan at Sitka claim the frog as their totem.




A YOUNG beaver was captured, long ago, by a family of the Decitan. It was well cared for, but it became angry and began to make songs. Afterward the beaver’s master went through the woods to a creek and found there two salmon-spear handles, beautifully carved. They were at the foot of a big tree. He took them home and when the beaver saw them he said, “That is my work.”

After a while, something offended the beaver again. He began to sing just like a human being. Then he seized a spear and threw it through his master’s chest. So his master was killed. The beaver thumped its tail on the ground and the house fell into the ground. The beaver had dug a great hollow under the house. It is from this story that the Decitan clan claim the beaver as their totem and have the beaver crest. They also have songs composed by the beaver.




A LONG time ago there was a man named Natsiane who always quarrelled with his wife. One day his brothers-in-law took him to an island far out at sea and left him there.

Natsiane began to think, “What can I do?” As he sat there thinking, he whittled two killer whales out of cottonwood bark. He put them into the water and shouted as the shamans do. They looked as if they were swimming but when they came to the surface, they were only cottonwood bark.

Natsiane made two more whales out of alder. He tried to put the spirit of his clan into them. As he put them in the water, he whistled four times like a spirit, “Whu, whu, whu, whu.” When they floated to the surface they were only alder wood. Then he tried hemlock, then red cedar. Afterward he tried yellow cedar. These whales swam right away like large killer whales. They swam out a long distance. When they came back they turned into wood.

Then Natsiane made holes in their dorsal fins, seized [141] one of them with each hand, and let the killer whales tow him out to sea. He said to them, “If you see my brothers-in-law in canoes, you are to upset them.” After the whales had towed Natsiane to sea for some distance, they returned to the island. They became wood again.

The next time Natsiane saw his brothers-in-law in their canoes, he put the spirit of his clan into the killer whales. Then they overturned the canoes and broke them to bits. They killed the people in them. After that Natsiane said to his killer whales, “You are not to injure people again. You must be kind to them.”

So these two killer whales became the canoes of the spirits. Shamans are lucky if they can get the spirit canoes.

It is through this story that the Daqlawe clan have the killer whale crest.



Eskimo (Bering Straits)

NEAR the village of Pastolik, at the mouth of the Yukon, grows a tall, slender grass which the women weave into baskets and mats.

A grass-stalk which had almost been pulled up by the women became much frightened. He wished he were something else. Close to him was a bunch of herbs, living peacefully and quietly. Grass said, “I wish I were an Herb.” At once it became an Herb, and lived peacefully.

One day the women came back with sharp-pointed picks, made from the antlers of the reindeer. They began to dig up the herbs and to eat some of the roots. Again Grass was frightened. He saw a small creeping plant nearby, very small and obscure. Grass said, “I wish I were a Creeping Plant.” At once he became a small Creeping Plant.

The women came back again and tore up much of the small creeping plant. Grass became much worried. He said, “I wish I were that small Tuber-plant there.” At once he became a plant having a tuberous root.

Courtesy “Alaska-Yukon Magazine”
Alaska Cotton on the Tundra, near Nome
A young man wears a crested hat
Copyrighted by Case and Draper
A Crested Hat

[143] Soon a small tundra mouse came creeping through the grass, and began nibbling at one of the tubers nearby. Grass thought, “I will not be safe until I become a Mouse.” At once Grass became Mouse.

He felt quite free as Mouse, and ran around over the tundra, nibbling at roots. Sometimes he would sit up on his hind legs and look about him. While travelling along, Mouse saw a great white Thing coming toward him. Sometimes it dropped to the ground, and after eating something would fly on. As it came near, Mouse saw it was a great white owl. Owl saw Mouse and darted down upon it, but Mouse slipped into a hole nearby and Owl flew away.

Mouse was very badly frightened by this. When he came out of his hole, he said, “I will be Owl. Then I will be safe.” At once he became a beautiful white Owl. With slow, noiseless wing he flew toward the north, stopping now and then to catch and eat a mouse. After a long flight, he came in sight of Sledge Island. Owl thought he would go there. When far out at sea, he became very tired. He could hardly reach the shore.

As he rested on a piece of driftwood on the sand, two men passed along the shore. Owl thought for a while. Then he said, “I will be a Man.” At once he became a fine-looking young man, but he had no clothing. Night came on and the air became cool. Man sat down [144] with his back against the piece of driftwood and slept there until morning. When the sun arose he awakened. He felt lame and stiff from the cold night air.

Looking about him, Man found some grass which he wove into a loose robe, which helped to keep out the cold. Suddenly he saw reindeer near him. He crept on hands and knees close to one, seized it by the horns and broke its neck with a single effort. He carried the reindeer on his back to his sleeping place. He felt all over the reindeer’s body but its skin was too thick for his fingers to break an opening. For a long time he thought. Then he saw near him a sharp-edged stone. He picked it up and found he could cut the skin with it. So Man skinned the deer. But he had no fire with which to cook it. Looking around, he saw two round white stones upon the beach. Striking them together, he saw they gave out sparks. He then found some dry wood and scraped off bits. With the wood and the stones he made a fire, and roasted some of the meat.

Man tried to swallow a large piece of meat, as he had done when he was Owl, but he could not do it. He had to cut it with the sharp-edged stone into smaller pieces.

The next day he killed another reindeer and skinned it. And the next day another. Then the nights became so cold he wrapped the skins upon him. When they [145] dried, they became as part of his body. But the nights became still colder, and the days were colder. Then Chunuhluk, the man, found some driftwood and made a rough hut.

After finishing his hut, Chunuhluk was walking over the hills one day when he met a strange black beast among the blueberry bushes. Chunuhluk did not know what to do, but at last he caught it by the hind legs. The black thing turned around with a growl and showed its white teeth. Chunuhluk quickly caught the bear by the heavy hair and threw it to the ground so it lay quiet. Then he killed it. Then he threw it across his shoulders and went home. Then he skinned it.

When Chunuhluk skinned the bear, he found it had much fat. He thought it might burn. His hut was very dark. So he went along the beach until he found a flat stone with a small hollow in it. He put the oil from the fat in this; then he put in a bit of dry moss and set the end of the moss on fire. Then his hut was lighted very well.

Chunuhluk also hung the bearskin in the opening of the door to keep out the cold. So he lived many days.

But at last Chunuhluk became lonely. Then he remembered the two men who had passed him when he was Owl. He went in search of people. At last he found two new kayaks at the foot of a hill, with spears, [146] lines, floats, and other hunting implements. Then he saw a path nearby. On the top was a house. On the ground around were several dead white whales. Chunuhluk crept cautiously into the entrance way and up to the door. He lifted the corner of a skin and saw a young man working on some arrows. He stepped in very quietly. The young man raised a bow and arrow to shoot, but Chunuhluk said, “I have come, brother.”

The young man said gladly, “Are you my brother? Come and sit beside me.”

At first the young man was very glad. He taught Chunuhluk all things. Then at last he became jealous of him. Then Chunuhluk became scornful. He said one day, “You cannot kill anything without a bow and arrow. I can kill with my hands alone.” Then the brother became still more angry.

One day both were out on the water in their kayaks. The young man said, “Now let us see who can gain the shore first.” They both reached the beach at the same time. Then the young man said, “You are no more my brother. You go in that direction and I will go in this.” So they parted angrily. As they went, Chunuhluk turned into Wolverine and his brother became Gray Wolf. To this day they wander in the same country, but never together.



Koryak (Siberia)

IT was at a time when the Creator lived. Once a violent snowstorm broke out and it blew incessantly. Creator got ready to go to Wind Man’s village to find out why the storm raged so constantly. He took a skin boat instead of a sledge. He hitched to it mice instead of reindeer. Then he started.

He came to the village of the Wind People. All the people surrounded him and laughed at his sledge and reindeer. “How will you carry off our presents on such reindeer?” they asked.

Creator said, “Just put them into the boat and never mind how I carry them off.”

The Wind People took out all the food and clothes they had and loaded the skin boat heaping full. Creator drove back his mice which dragged the loaded skin boat home. Then he returned to the village of the Wind People. They loaded his skin boat again and he carried off everything they had. Then Creator’s mice gnawed the straps off all the sledges and harness of the Wind People. Thus the Wind People could not drive any more and the snowstorm ceased. That’s all.



Koryak (Siberia)

ONE day Fox said to his children, “I am going to get some eggs.” He went to the woods and saw Eagle’s nest high up in a tree. He put some grass stalks into his ears, knocked with them on the tree, and said to Eagle, “Throw me down an egg. If you don’t, I will knock the tree over with these stalks and break it.”

Eagle became frightened and threw down an egg.

“Throw down another,” said Fox.

“That’s enough,” said Eagle. “I will not throw down any more.”

Fox said, “Throw it down. If I knock down the tree, I’ll take them all.”

Eagle was frightened and threw down another egg. Then Fox laughed and said, “I fooled you nicely. How could I have knocked down a whole tree with these small grass stalks?”

Eagle became angry. He threw himself upon Fox, grasped him with his talons, lifted him high in the air, [149] flew far out to sea and threw him down upon a lonely island.

Fox remained on that island. He lived there and thought to himself, “Am I really going to die on this island?”

Fox began to sing shamans’ songs. Seals, walrus, and whales appeared near the island. “What are you singing about?” they asked Fox.

“This is what I was singing about,” said Fox. “Are there more animals in the waters of the sea or on the dry land?”

“Certainly there are more in the waters of the sea,” so the Sea People replied.

“Well, let us see,” said Fox. “Come up to the surface of the water and form a raft from this island to the land. Then I will take a walk over you and count you all.”

The Sea People all came up to the surface of the water and formed a raft. Fox ran over their backs, pretending to count them. But as soon as he reached land, he jumped ashore and went home. That’s all.


Transcriber’s Note

Variations in spelling are preserved as printed.

The following amendments have been made:

Frontispiece caption—Tinglit amended to Tlingit—Tlingit Indians in Dancing Costume

Page xiii—Tinglit amended to Tlingit—Tlingit Indians in Dancing Costume

Page 19—beak-mast amended to beak-mask—Then Raven pulled down his beak-mask, ...

The frontispiece illustration has been moved to follow the title page. Other illustrations have been moved where necessary so that they are not in the middle of a paragraph.