Tales of Eskimo Alaska

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Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2019 with funding from Kahle/Austin Foundation





Alaska Methodist University Press 1971


An AMU Press Book made possible by a grant from the Alaska State Council on the Arts and by the National Endowment on the Arts

Alaska Review, No. 15

FOREWORD Legends in this volume were collected by participants in the 1969-1970 EPDA Institute in Teaching Alaskan Native Youth sponsored by Alaska Methodist University with funding pro¬ vided by the U.S. Office of Education. Unfortunately, there is as yet a dire lack of attractively printed and illustrated books of Native legends for leisure reading, particularly for primary school children. Much excellent material is poorly printed and some is miserably illustrated. There is, moreover, a great need for such stories to be published both in English and in various major Eskimo dialects (with accom¬ panying tapes) for use in the bilingual class¬ room. The present collection does not achieve all these objectives, but it does preserve stories that otherwise might be lost and suggests the urgen¬ cy of preserving other similar literature of a precious Alaskan cultural heritage. Margritt Engel of the EPDA faculty led the section on Eskimo literature and was especially responsible for supervising most of the projects represented in this volume. Marianna Bunger, Associate Director of the EPDA Institute and specialist in children’s literature, also shared significantly in its development. 0. W. Frost


CONTENTS TOGIAK TALES FOR CHILDREN The Porcupine Hunt - -.11 told by Annie Blue, interpreted by Harry Moore, and written by Helen Stewart Aruyak and His Sling -----.15 told by Annie Pauk, interpreted by Gladys Coupchiak, and written by Helen Stewart Eskimo Bedtime Story.18 told by Mary Coupchiak, interpreted by her daughter Gladys, and written by Helen Stewart BETHEL TALES FOR CHILDREN How Crane Got His Blue Eyes.23 written by Gladys Fancher Old Crow and Mink.27 written by Gladys Fancher How Fox Got To Be Black.30 written by Gladys Fancher LEGENDS OF THE LOWER YUKON AND KUSKOKWIM Achkak ----- . - told by Sophie Hootch to Herman Romer




The Ghost Woman - -.----38 told by Sophie Hootch to Herman Romer Origin of Emmonak ---------told by Sophie Hootch to Herman Romer


A Death in the Family - -- -- -- -- -43 told by Albert C. Romer, Sr., to Herman Romer The War between the Eskimos ------told by Albert C. Romer, Sr., to Herman Romer




The Girl Who Came Back to Life.48 told by Peter Umigiak to Sister Mary James McLaughlin LEGENDS OF KOTZEBUE AND VICINITY Okailuk's Story of Kotzebue.53 told by Marie Stalker to Viola Jerrel A Blind Man and the Loon.62 told by Emily Barr to Martha Barr Orphan and His Grandparents.68 told by Emily Barr to Martha Barr The Enchanting Aroma.69 told by Rosie Barr to Martha Barr Kittiwake Seagull.70 told by Rosie Barr to Martha Barr The Fox and the Raven.71 told by Freda Goodwin to Martha Barr Mighty Mouse.75 told by Isaiah Barr to Martha Barr Mischievous Children.. told by Bessie Cross to Martha Barr




Flour for Food.79 told by Paul Green to Martha Barr

Glossary. Author’s Notes










Index of Place Names





PORCUPINE HUNT Many years ago our men did not stay around the village. They went out hunting. They hunted for the otter and wolverine. They hunted for the beaver and fox. Long ago our men hunted these animals. They hunted animals to sell. They made money that way to take care of their families. They went hunting every day, long ago. The women went hunting squirrels. They went out in the spring to catch the squirrels. They got many squirrels. Many years ago when I was a young woman I went hunting. I liked to hunt porcupine. The porcupine was scarce in those days. When I really wanted a porcupine I walked to the hills. I took my snowshoes. I always took my knife



with me. My younger brother went along with me in those days. We took a shotgun with us. We hunted in the clearings among the birch trees. There among the birch trees we found most of the porcupine. I got five porcupine in one place. That was the most I ever got in one place. One time we walked out to the hills. My brother said, “See that porcupine over there. It is up a tree.” I looked. It was away up high in



the tree. We could clearly see it. The tree was near the cliff. My brother said, “Don’t climb the tree. It is too dangerous.” Down below the cliff we saw the river. The river was swift. It was full of melted snow from the hills. The river looked very swift. We could hear it roaring. I looked at the porcupine again. I wanted that porcupine! Then the porcupine came down the tree. It went along a trail. We went after it. The trail was easy to follow. Then I saw the porcupine had a hole. It was going to the hole. I wanted that porcupine. I ran to its hole on the cliff. I said to my brother, (Tm going to get that por¬ cupine.” My brother said, “You can’t get that porcu¬ pine. It is in its hole.” I did not listen to my brother. I took the shotgun. I put the barrel of the gun into the hole. My brother told me again, “Don’t do that! You will get hurt. Don’t do that! You will fall into that swift river!” I would not listen. I pulled the trigger! As soon as I pulled the trigger I could not think. I rolled down the cliff in the snow. I felt very dizzy. I stopped rolling. I could not stand up. I looked down at the swift roaring river. I thought, “Oh, I almost went into the river. I



came very near to dying. My brother was right. Why did I pull that trigger?” I picked up some sticks. I climbed up the cliff to my brother. He took hold of me. I felt like going to bed. Then I saw the porcupine out of its hole. I ran and hit it very hard with my stick. My stick broke. One piece flew into the river. The porcupine was dead. We took the porcupine and went home. My brother said, “Your face is swollen and red.” I felt of my swollen face. It hurt! I said, “This is my last time for hunting porcupine!”



ARUYAK AND HIS SLING Aruyak took his sling- and walked to the mountains. He was looking for ptarmigan. He liked to hunt food for his family. Soon his bag was full of ptarmigan. He would take some ptarmigan to his grandmother. He walked and walked. It was getting dark when he came to the door of his house. There was no one in his house. He looked up at the window at the top of his house. He saw deer ... walking on the roof. The deer had white down the front of their throat and chest. They had black on the middle of their backs. The boy went up on the roof. One of the deer tried to bite Aruyak’s arm. He went down from the roof. He got some ptarmigan for the deer. The deer ate all of the



ptarmigan food. When the deer finished eating, the boy looked up. There on the window he saw a ghost. Aruyak quickly got his sling. He shot at the ghost. He went up on the roof but the ghost was gone. He looked around. Then Aruyak saw that he had shot a big crow right on the head. The crow was dead. It was not good to eat. Aruyak put the last few ptarmigan in a pot for his grandmother. Then he went to his grandmoth¬ er’s house.

As Aruyak walked along he saw balls of red and black fire following him. He quickly got his sling. He tried to shoot the balls of fire. They went splash and he did not see them any more. He ran home and went to bed. While he was sleeping he was dreaming. He dreamed about his baby mukluks. He tried to shoot them with his sling. Then he woke up. He ran all the way to his grandmother’s



house. He told his grandmother about his dream. His grandmother took all the ptarmigan out of the pot. There were his baby mukluks in the bottom of the pot. They began making a sound like a baby crying. Grandmother quickly cooked the ptarmigan. They sat down to eat the ptarmigan and the crying stopped.



ESKIMO BEDTIME STORY A little boy went to pack water from the little river. His grandmother was cooking the little fish. Grandmother sewed while waiting for her grandson to come home. When he came they ate the little fish. Then they walked along the little trail. They were looking for rabbits. They got two rabbits and some ptarmigan. When they came home Grandmother packed some water. She packed water with her shovel. Next she took the skins off the ptarmigan while the little boy was fixing his arrow. He was sitting down working on his arrow. Grandmother began cooking the rabbits. She broke little sticks for the fire. When the rabbits were cooked, Grandmother and the little boy ate them. They ate together from a little wooden bowl. They had a little seal oil lamp. When Grandmother finished eating she sat by the fire. She sewed mukluks. The little boy went to the river to get fish. He used his little boat. He caught five fish and came home. Grandmother cut the fish. Then she dried them. Grandmother and the little boy sat together by the fire. Grandmother sewed grass to be



hung up to dry. Then Grandmother saw that the fish were dried. She took them to a little house to smoke them. When she finished smoking the fish she went berry picking. She picked lots of berries. She came home and made akutaq. Grandmother and the little boy sat together and ate the akutaq. When they finished they went to bed. They had straw for blankets. When they woke up they went to get wood. Soon they had a fire in the little stove. They were ready for another busy day.




HOW CRANE GOT HIS BLUE EYES A long time ago Crane lived by himself on the tundra near Bethel, on the Kuskokwim River. Crane knew where some good, juicy berries grew. One morning he awoke very hungry for some berries. He arose, stretched flapped his big wings.





Up, up, up he flew, on his way to the berries. Soon Crane found the berries. He flew down to the ground. Then he took out his eyes, and put them on a stump. Crane: “Eyes, you watch for me. If you see



anything- coming-, call me. I will not go far away.” Eyes: “Yes, Master, I will watch for you.” Crane went fast to get to the berries. He ate some of the sweet, juicy berries. Then Crane's eyes began calling him. Eyes: “Master, Master, I see something coming this way. Please hurry, Master, before it gets me.” Crane tried to run fast to his eyes. He put them on and looked all around. All he saw were some willows. He took out his eyes again and put them on a stump. Crane: “Don't fool me again. Just call me when you really see something coming.” Crane went back to eat more berries. My, they tasted good. They tasted so very, very good! Again his eyes called him. Eyes: “Master, Master, hurry, hurry! I see something coming.” Again Crane tried to run fast to his eyes. He put them on to see what his eyes had seen. All he saw was a log floating down river. Crane: “Eyes, you fooled me again! Be more careful before you call me.”



Crane took out his eyes again and put them on the stump. He went back to eat more berries. My, how sweet they tasted! Again his eyes called him. Eyes: “Master, Master, come! Someone is taking me away. Hurry! Come and get me!” Crane tried again to get to his eyes. When he got back to the stump, he could not find them. His eyes were gone! Crane: “Oh, my! How will I see now? My eyes are gone. I must find new eyes!” Crane picked up two blackberries to use for his eyes. Everything looked black. Crane: “Oh, my! I can’t see at all.” Crane took out the blackberries. Then he picked up two cranberries to use for his eyes. Crane: “Oh, my! Everything looks red.” Crane didn’t like that at all. He took out the two cranberries. Crane then found two blueberries to use for his eyes. He liked them. Everything was so very pretty. He saw blue sky and blue water.



Crane: “I’ll use these blueberries for my eyes. I like them!” That is how Crane got his blue eyes.



OLD CROW AND MINK Old Crow was flying along one day when he saw a house and flew down to it. In the house was Mink. Old Crow: “Mink, will you be my wife?” Mink wasn’t sure at first what she should say. She thought and thought and thought. Old Crow: “If you will be my wife I will be good to you and get you anything you need.” So Mink decided to become Mrs. Crow. They stayed together for a long, long time. One day Old Crow decided to go hunting. Old Crow: “Mrs. Crow, will you make me some akutaq? Make it very, very good. I’m going hunting and will be back tonight.” It gets dark early in the evening in the fall. Mrs. Crow could not see well on the porch, but she could hear a voice.



Voice: “Hey, if you don’t give me some akutaq, I’ll eat you alive!” Mrs. Crow was frightened. She got a dish full of akutaq and threw it on the porch. She could hear someone eating and eating. After a while someone threw the dish back into the house. Nothing was left. It was licked clean. Soon Old Crow came into his house. Mrs. Crow spoke to him. Mrs. Crow: “Do you want something to eat?” Old Crow: “No, I’m not hungry. I met some¬ body when I was hunting and he gave me some¬ thing to eat.” A few days later Old Crow decided to go hunting again. He spoke to his wife. Old Crow: “Mrs. Crow, will you make me some akutaq? Make it very, very good. I’m going hunting again.” Old Crow was gone all day. When evening came, Mrs. Crow heard a voice. Voice: Hey, if you don’t give me some akutaq I’ll eat you alive.” Mrs. Crow thought that the voice sounded like Old Crow.



She thought she would find out. There was a fire burning in the middle of the room. Mrs. Crow took a big piece of wood, which was all burned up, and threw it on the porch. Voice: “Oh, oh, oh!” After a few minutes, Old Crow came in with his hand over his eye. Mrs. Crow wondered what had happened to him. Mrs. Crow: “What happened to you?” Old Crow: “Well, when I was trying to get wood, a piece got in my eye and now it is sore.” Mrs. Crow wondered about that. Mrs. Crow: “Take your hand away from your eye.” When Old Crow took his hand away from his eye, she saw that his eye was full of charcoal. Mrs. Crow: “So you are the one who has been eating my akutaq! Get out. I never want to live with you again.” And so Old Crow went away. Do you know who the Voice was? I do.

HOW FOX GOT TO BE BLACK A long time ago a man went hunting in the forest. While he was cooking a duck for supper, a fox came by. e .

will you stay and eat with

me?” Fox: ‘Tm really not hungry. I just had something to eat. I think Til just go and walk around. I’m taking my evening walk.” So the fox walked away while the hunter was still cooking his duck for supper. Before eating the hunter went to get more wood for the fire. When the hunter came back, he saw that some of his duck was gone.



Then he saw the fox walking- away. Hunter: “Oh, you! You said you weren’t hungry when I asked you to eat with me. Now, you’ve eaten some of my duck. I’ll get even with you some day.” The next day, when the hunter was walking along a path, he saw the fox sleeping on some grass. The hunter set the grass on fire while the fox was sleeping. The fox’s body got all black from the fire. AND THAT’S HOW THE FOX GOT TO BE BLACK.



ACHKAK A long- time ago when Kipnayak was a vil¬ lage there lived a man who was considered a best hunter of that area. His name was Achkak. At that time the Indians used to come down to trade for seal oil and furs. One summer day an Indian came down to Kipnayak to trade for seal oil and stuff. He came on a boat with a big sail. Achkak, who had got a lot of game, tried his best to get this Indian to trade his boat to him for two seals and some skins. But the Indian would not trade his boat for anything. When this Indian had done his business there, he put up his sail. Then when the boat started to move, Achkak jumped on the boat and tore the sail off. Then he jumped back on to the ground again. The Indian cursed Achkak and said: “Since you want the sail so bad, I tell you that you shall be killed by it. It shall cause your death.” Next spring Achkak and his friends went down to the ocean to hunt seals and Achkak took that sail with him to use as a tent. They went way out to the ocean and stopped when they found open water. There were two big icebergs there, and Achkak set up his lean-to

on one of them. Achkak and his partner went to bed in the tent, but the others stayed on the main ice to sleep. During the night Achkak’s partner dreamed that a big wind had come and lifted the tent and moved it. He woke up and found that it was still in place but he couldn’t go back to sleep. In the morning all the men got together and ate their breakfast. While they were eating, they saw a kayak coming toward them and recog¬ nized in it the powerful medicine man of that area.


When he came up, they invited him to eat with them. But he told them to get back to the mainland because there was a big wind coming and that one of them was just about to die. But he did not tell who it would be. Achkak laughed and told him he was crazy and that they were all healthy and were not about to die. Then that medicine man gave him a knowing look but never answered him and left. The men left too, but as soon as they left a strong wind struck. Achkak was blown into the water and killed. The rest got back to the main¬ land safely and lived happily ever after.



THE GHOST WOMAN A long time ago at a fishing camp close to Nunakak a few families were getting ready to go back to their winter camp. But a couple could not go because the woman was very sick and was dying. The day after the people left, the woman died. As she lay dying she told her husband to stay five days and not to go until five days were up. Well, as soon as she died, he buried her and left that same day to try to catch up with the others. In the meantime the people who had already left were nearing Nunakak and stopped to eat along the way. They could see their village. They also saw a person that resembled a woman just walking around. She would go in through a door, then go out through the walls. She went through all the houses. When she went into the last house, the people got afraid and turned around and went to Sheldon’s Point. Meantime, the husband of the woman kept going, trying to catch up with his people. The woman followed the people from a distance. They tried everything from cutting the air with knives to getting the medicine men to do chants and ask for help from the beyond. But nothing helped. Then she finally disappeared.


At Sheldon’s Point that night, as was the custom at that time, all the men slept at the qasegiq and the women and children stayed home. During the night the men heard someone outside making a lot of racket. Then they heard someone coming in through the passageway in the ground. It was the woman. She appeared only waist high and started to look around. She told the men that if he had stayed the five days she would not wander around. It happened that there was a very powerful medicine man in the qasegiq. He got up and told the men that if it hadn’t been for him they would all be dead now but that the woman wouldn’t ever bother them again. And they never did see her any more.



ORIGIN OF EMMONAK A long time ago at Kwigmute there was a man who was going to trap wolverines. So he went to the place where Emmonak is now. It was nineteen or twenty miles away from Kwigmute. When he got to Emmonak to set out the traps, he found that he did not have bait for the traps. But he saw a coffin at the edge of the trees and there was a hand sticking out of the coffin. So he got his little hatchet and cut the hand off at the wrist to use for bait. In the evening when he started to eat he noticed that there was a little qasegiq just big enough for two or three people. He went in with his little dog. He was getting ready to go to bed when he heard a little voice calling him at the back of the qasegiq. The dog got excited and started pulling on Kadalok’s clothes, but the man was not scared or excited and he paid no attention. Again he heard the voice, closer to the door. The dog got more excited, but Kadalok was not scared. The dog became frantic and tried to pull Kadalok again. After a while the voice called Kadalok again from the doorway. The dog then started digging in the fireplace in the center of the qasegiq as


fast as she could. She pulled him down into the hole, and there he lay with the dog on top of him to cover him up to save him. Kadalok thought of the tunnel that went from the fireplace to the outside of the qasegiq. It was a tunnel to shove the ashes outside from the fireplace.

Then he saw a hand floating in the air. It was going around in the qasegiq calling his name. Then he crawled out of the qasegiq through the tunnel from the fireplace. He had a little sled (kamiganun). He got his sled and took the line and ran. The dog ran behind him. The voice kept calling. When the voice got closer, the dog would go back and forth across the road. When Kadalok got a little further away, the dog followed again. The dog kept doing this to save him. He looked back and saw that a little ball of



fire was coming behind him with a little black spot in the middle. When he got close to Kwigmute, he saw that the village was elevated. It was floating above the ground. When he got to the edge he had no way to step over into the village. A woman came out and spilled a honey bucket (qerrun) over the edge of the floating village and the village settled down at that edge and Kadalok stepped over and the fireball went under the village. At that time the custom was that when a man came home from a hunt he went straight to the qasegiq, staying overnight and telling the other men the story of his hunt and taking a bath. Then he went back to his house. Well, he went in there and he could hear the voice under the village saying, “Kadalok, I lost you.” The next day Kadalok was a pretty sick man. I guess all that running made him sick. And when he went outside to look at his dog, his dog was dead at the doorway. A few days later three or four families went to Emmonak. That’s how Emmonak is supposed to have been started. Other families moved later to Emmonak from Kwigmute, and some moved to other places. Nobody lives in Kwigmute now.


A DEATH IN THE FAMILY There was a young fellow from Bethel that was drowned in Bristol Bay. In fact, I didn’t know it until his sister, who lives here in town, called me on the phone. She was all upset. After a week she left with her children to be with her parents down there at fish camp near Bethel. Two weeks later she wrote a letter to her husband and he gave me the letter to read. Now, in one of the old legends when somebody



dies accidentally or naturally, the family must fast or refrain from doing normal work. So the mother and father of this boy couldn’t fish during the summer. The mother couldn’t split fish. Whenever they were going to cook the fish, they usually cut the tail off and burnt it. (The legend says that even when the fish go by, the dead body can’t swim away when they take the tail off and burn it.) They couldn’t pick berries until the body had been recovered and buried. After that, the family is back to normal operation. And in those days, anytime that anybody dies, according to the legends, the spirit of the man travels a lot faster than the woman’s. They’ll keep a body of a man in the house for three days and on the fourth day they’ll have a feast which indicates that the spirit of the man has arrived. Now with the body of a woman it lies in state in the house for four days and on the fourth day after the burial they also have a feast.


THE WAR BETWEEN THE ESKIMOS Long ago in the village there was a qasegiq. (They used to have a pretty big one in Bethel when I was growing up in the twenties.) It was a large round sod house with a large pit in the middle to build a fire for a sweat bath. After the people got through having their baths, they used to cover this area with a huge log, making a floor over it so they could have games and dances. Usually after the sweat bath the young people used to play games and wrestle. Anyway, as the legend goes, they used to play darts there. They covered the walls with huge planks. On two of the planks, each on the opposite side of the room, they used to make a bull’s eye out of charcoal. Then there would be four boys, one on each side of the bull’s eyes about twenty feet



apart across the room. The darts were made of wood with feathers on them, just like arrows, and the points were made out of nails. They threw the darts across the pit trying to hit the bull’s eye. According to the legend, there were only two boys, whom we’ll call Dick and Harry, throwing darts right after the sweat bath. Dick’s father was in the qasegiq and he had a home-made knife. The blade was made out of springs of an old trap, and the handle was made out of either reindeer horn or ivory. The handle was wedgeshaped, sometimes used for making strips for making fish traps. Dick’s father was in the qasegiq making a hoop for his kayak with his knife. When Harry threw a dart across the pit, the dart got caught in his finger and hit Dick right in the eye. Harry’s father took the dart out of Dick’s eye. But then Dick’s father ran over to Harry and took the wedge-shaped handle of his knife and struck the handle into Harry’s eyes and broke both eyeballs. And then everybody in the qasegiq began taking sides and, according to the legend, that’s how the war started. It spread from near the mouth of the river up the river. The people that sided with Dick’s father drove most of the people that sided with


Harry’s father up toward the mouth of the Kuskokwim River. The Eskimos claim that most of the people in Bristol Bay retreated from the Bethel area to the Nushagak area. In the war an entire village was wiped out. This village was located about four miles below Quinahak, and was quite a bit larger. During the spring, the men went seal hunting, and they used to store their seal oil in pokes that were put in wells of water so the seal oil wouldn’t turn rancid. During one night the Kuskokwim people that had retreated sneaked up on the village. They burned all the village and killed all the people. They took all the children and threw them in these wells and drowned most of them. It’s a real long story that would take hours to tell, but that’s how the big war started among the Eskimo.



THE GIRL WHO CAME BACK TO LIFE It was in the fall of the year and many families from many villages had gathered at Takshak for a potlatch. The potlatch lasted about two weeks. They feasted, danced, played games, gambled, and of course had a little “something” to keep their spirits up. The day before the breakup of the potlatch the people were in high good humor. They stayed up all night and left the next morning. Peter Umigiak and his wife left by boat for their cabin lower down on the Yukon. The days were short and when Peter went down to the fish cache to get fish for his dogs and for his family, it was dusk. He unlocked the door by untying a rope and


raising a wooden bar. He went in. Imagine his surprise when he saw someone moving in the shadows. The door had been locked! Looking closely, he recognized his daughter who had been dead for several years. When she went into a corner and bent over, he sneaked up behind her just real quiet and grabbed her. The girl struggled and struggled to free herself. She begged to be set free. But he held her the tighter. He asked her where she had been and she answered, “A long way off in a beautiful place.” He asked her why she was in the fish cache. She said, “I left fish here and I must eat them.” The father begged her to stay with them. She said she must return. He pleaded the more and finally she consented to stay. He released her and led her back to the house. Her mother was surprised and happy to see her. During the following year they all lived in Peter’s house, but the girl would sit for hours staring into the fire or off in space. She spoke very little. She kept saying she was lonesome for the home she had left, the beautiful place where she had come from. A year passed and again the potlatch was being held. This time Peter and his wife took their daughter with them. Many people recog-



nized her, but were afraid to speak to her be¬ cause they remembered going to her funeral and burying her. Someone brought a girl five years old to the girl who had been dead. They said, “See, this is the little girl we gave your name to.” When the little girl looked up and saw the girl whose name she had been given, she gave a loud scream and died.




OKAILUK’S STORY OF KOTZEBUE These Eskimo people at Kotzebue started building a home at a place called Kaikaituruk. There’s a lagoon. There’s a mouth of that lagoon way over there, and there’s a sandbar down by the coast of the ocean, and there’s land by the side of the lagoon, the hill, the bank. These Eskimos plan to build a home right by the end of the lagoon by the hillside. There are hills above them toward the south side. There was a rich man who supported this village. He had a big cache that was filled with skins for clothing and bedding and food right outside of his house. He had a beautiful daughter. He was a wealthier man than all of those other men because he had a boat and hunt¬ ing equipment like spears and bow-and-arrows made out of bones and ivories, and he had a jade knife. He lives right in there in the recre¬ ational hall—what they call the kargi. This is the place where they gather and have the feast, Eskimo games and dances, and story-tell¬ ing. This man lives in it with’his family. The other people live in the sod houses. They all have a skylight window upon the ceiling made with ugruk guts. They dry the ugruk guts and put them up for a skylight just like a window. They



don’t use a regular door just like we have. They have an entrance through up on top, a stormshed, and they have the stairs down to the hall¬ way. The make a tunnel, and there’s another entrance there to their home. They have Eskimo lamps to heat these homes, two in each. The women cook out in the hallway on a firebox, just like a fire. The cooking place is on the other end of the tunnel. Every summer these men would go out hunt¬

ing for belugas, seals, ugruks, and caribous. The women would pick berries while the men were out hunting. There was an old woman with a grandson who lived there too. His parents died while he was a little baby, and his grand-



mother raised him. He hardly visited any homes. He stayed home all the time. Now he started to follow these hunters. He is big enough to go with them. He must be a teenager now. The wealthy man supported him with hunting equipment. Before freeze-up, everybody came back from hunting. All the hunters returned with real good substance they got, more than they used to catch before. So their chief, Oohmelik, the wealthy man, called the people to give a big feast because this was the first time they brought home so much food. So they planned to have a big feast. All the men started getting ready, and so did the women, but he allowed not the children to be there—just the women would bring the food to the kargi. The chief told them they would have the feast three days. The men would have a good time inside for three days, having Eskimo games, foot athletics, storytelling, and Eskimo dancing. They have a custom. If they give out the food, they are supposed to feed everybody, even the infant. On the last day, one of the women must make Eskimo ice cream. This woman had a little baby boy, and her mother-in-law lived with them. She took the last meal, but when she served her children, she forgot her baby.



Everybody was tired after three days’ cele¬ bration. They all went to sleep. During* the night while they were sleeping, the baby was sucking his mother’s breast. While he was sucking, his mouth started growing up to his ears. It opened up to his ears, and the teeth grew all over his mouth, real sharp teeth. He started to eat his mother, starting from the breast. This baby’s grandmother woke up. From the noise she woke up. Somebody was chewing, eating. When she lifted her head, she noticed that the baby was eating his mother, starting from the breast. So she jumped from her bedding. She noticed her grandson was turned into a diapered jumping baby. She woke her son. He was sleep¬ ing with his wife and the baby. Then she went out. She started running around waking every¬ body up telling them what happened. After she woke them, she told them to run toward the mouth of that lagoon. The men must have run toward that hillside and the women toward the coastline. Now when this man woke up, the baby’s father, after his mother woke him up he noticed his little son eating his mother. When he could look at him, his mouth was wide open way up to his ears. His mouth was full of teeth. The man was so excited he didn’t have time to put his



clothes on. He just grabbed them and jumped up to the skylight. When he went out, he noticed the people were all ready to run for their lives, and he put his clothes on when he got on top of the house. He started running after these people. When he got there, they put two logs so everybody, all those women and children, could go across. When he went across Oomelik, the chief, started to remember that he had forgotten his jade knife. It was hanging on top of the entrance of the kargi. He asked the men who would want to go back and get this, so no¬ body volunteered except the young orphan boy who lived with his grandmother. He made an agreement that if he come back with his jade knife, he would give him half of his kingdom and his daughter for his wife. So this young boy started running back to the village. When he got near, he could hear this baby’s voice real shrill, sharp. Every time he heard this baby’s voice, he got real frightened and almost fainted, but he wanted to get the jade knife. When he got to the kargi, he saw the baby was starting to go into the last house next to the kargi. He was jumping from his diaper. He didn’t stop. The young man just went inside and jumped out through the sky-



light because if he started to go out through the hallway, he would meet the baby. He started running for his life, running back. He could hear the baby running after him. Every time when he looked back, the baby would jump from his diaper. Every time the baby would make noise, the young man would get weaker and weaker. He would try with all his might not to fall, but every time the baby made noise, his body weakened. He got to the slough, but he didn’t stop. He jumped and landed on the other side. He was so scared! While he was running, he looked back to see what was happening to that baby, but the baby jumped just like he did. The baby landed on the other side of the slough. When the young man could see the people, he waved at them and asked them to pull one of the logs up, but to hang on to one. While he was running, he started calling, telling people to wait for baby til baby get halfway up the lagoon, and roll the log over and see what happens to baby. Every¬ body was watching that boy run for his life, and the baby was right behind him. So the young boy ran across that log, and that little baby was right behind him. So when the boy got on the land, they rolled the log when the baby got halfway to the lagoon. The



baby fell in the water. They pulled this log up when the baby fell in the water. The baby disap¬ peared. A few minutes later these people were watch¬ ing what would happen. In just a little while, the black hair start coming up from the water— came up with long hair. They couldn’t see the face. So she started talking to the people. “I am the woman with the fish body. I have arms just like a woman, and my face is just like a woman, and my body is just like a fish. I have lived here many, many years. I will have this baby for my¬ self, but I advise you to keep away from this lagoon. If one or two people try to get across, they will always disappear. So you people please remember what I told you.”



The people got scared. They did want to go back to their village. They didn’t want to go across the lagoon anymore. They started build¬ ing a boat. They started to go across the Kotze¬ bue Bay toward the Noatak River. When they got to the first island on the mouth of the Noatak River, they started building their homes there. They lived there until other villages started gathering from all over to Sheshalik, that place across Kotzebue called Sheshalik. These people planned to go to Sheshalik to join their visitors from other villages. They started to have a big Eskimo dance con¬ test. They tried to find out which village has the best dancers; they will go to this village and have a big contest. They carried this on for many, many years. These Kotzebue people and Kaikaituruk people had lots of visitors from other villages who wanted to live with them, and this island got too small for them. They started planning to go back to Kaikaituruk, but not in the place where they used to live before. They built their new homes right in the middle of the lagoon with the help of the other visitors from the villages. The young boy became a big great hunter, and they raised children. He married the king’s daughter. When his father-in-law died, he be-



came chief. When they moved there, they lost quite a few men on the lagoon. They tried to go across the lagoon, and they disappeared, kayak and all. When the first missionary came, he gave a name to this place—Kotzebue. It was Kaikaituruk before, but the first missionary named the place Kotzebue. A few years later, they kept losing men on that lagoon. They prayed for that lagoon. These people went up to that lagoon and prayed. They even threw all kinds of offerings to that lagoon—anything they could think of. They said they didn’t want to lose any men after that. They started living without any disturbance ever since. That’s the story of Kotzebue.



A BLIND MAN AND THE LOON A very long time ago there lived a woman and a daughter and a son not far from the sand dunes. The son was always lucky whenever he went out hunting. The daughter who was younger than the son grew up and learned to help her mother with the many chores an Eskimo woman has to learn to do to survive.

The son of the woman brought many differ¬ ent kinds of animals day after day. Finally the mother got tired of working on the animals her son kept bringing home. So one day she said, “Please, don’t go out hunting for a while, for I am very tired and would like a rest.” But the son answered, “It is better to have many dead animals and not go hungry.”



The mother not liking- the idea of her son talking back to an older person thought to her¬ self, ‘Til let the evil spirits make him blind/’ She was an angatkuq. Just as spring was near the son went com¬ pletely blind. One day while everyone was inside the house, the window made from bearded seal intestine started to rattle. Their mother exclaimed, “A polar bear is breaking through the window!” “Give me my bow and arrow,” said the son. So his mother quickly gave them to her son. Then he said, “Help me aim toward the neck of the polar bear.” She readily did. The arrow found its mark right on the neck of the polar bear. The bear made some noise as it fell dying.



When the son heard the noise he said, “Oh, to kill a bear again!” But his mother said, “No, my son, you only hit the rim of the window sill,” as she was going out the door to see which way the bear was heading. ♦

She found the bear lying dead right beside the house. Re-entering, she told her son the bear was nowhere in sight. Then the mother and daughter went out and stayed for quite a while skinning the bear and cutting it up into small enough pieces for cook¬ ing. She then built a fire and cooked some meat. Her son said, “That sure smells like polar bear meat.” She said she was just burning some useless things and then fed him food that was scarcely edible. The son had no choice. For as long as the polar bear meat lasted, the daughter would cook and put a piece or two away while her mother was not looking. Finally, it was fawning time for the caribous and the mother remarked that very soon they would have to go up to the hills to get some caribou fawns. Then one day she said, “Today we will go out for some caribou.”



Just as they reached the foot of the hills the girl said that she had forgotten her belt and she must go back for it. When she reached the house she told her brother that she had told a fib to her mother just to let him know that he had killed that bear but could not give him any meat be¬ cause she was afraid of her mother. But she said she had some hidden out of sight. He thanked her for the bear meat and her thought¬ fulness. Then she hurriedly went back to her mother. For many days they stayed away. While they were away, he would grope his way out of the house using the cane to guide him and stay out in the sun. When the sun was getting very warm, he could hear the game. One day he could hear the game all over the place and along with them he could hear a loon. It seemed to say, “Come over to me.” So the son started toward the sound of the loon, using his cane to guide him. When he heard the cane dip into water, and the loon sounded very close, he stopped. The loon said to him that he felt very ‘sorry when his mother let him become blind. He said he wanted to help him see again. “Take your clothes off and come to me and grab me just above my wings around my neck.” This he did.



He went under water with the loon three times. The loon said, “Open your eyes.” When the son opened his eyes, he could see but not as well as before he became blind. So the loon took him under water again. When they came up, the son said he could see much better, but still he could not see as well as formerly. So the loon took him down a fifth time. When they came back up, his eyesight was worse than the last time. Then the loon said, “Go home, and be sure to avenge yourself when your mother comes home.” While he was waiting, he fixed his boat. Then one day he could see two people coming and he knew that his mother and sister were coming. When they reached home, the mother said that the fawns were so hard to get this year that they didn’t get very many. Then she noticed that he could see. She asked who had made it possible for him to see again. But her son paid no at¬ tention. The next day was so warm and very calm the son suggested going out with the boat. His mother agreed. When they were out quite a ways, the son grabbed his mother and threw her overboard. The woman grabbed the edge of the



boat, but the son cut her fingers off. Then she used her hair to hang on, but her son cut it off too. When she came up no more, a black whale came up. She had turned into a whale. Up to this day the whale has the hair of that woman in its mouth. It is known as baleen to us.



ORPHAN AND HIS GRANDPARENTS Many years ago there lived an old couple and their orphaned grandson near the ocean where drinking water was always scarce. In the winter the orphan would have to haul snow for their water. It could be hauled only from a small hill quite a distance from the igloo they lived in. The grandfather was always scolding the boy until one day he could not take the scolding any more. So he went down to the igloo and opened the skylight doors and all the other openings in that igloo and started his magic'song. As he sang, the snow started falling and drifting. The faster he sang the stormier the weather got. The igloo was almost instantly filled with snow and smothered the crabby old grandfather. To this day the small hill where the orphan used to haul snow is called Snow Hill.



THE ENCHANTING AROMA Once upon a time there lived a mother mouse and her offspring. One day while the little mouse was wandering outside their home, he followed the smell of something so good that he decided to reach the place where the smell came from. On and on he walked until he came to a large wooden tower. The smell seemed to come from the top of the tower. He decided to climb. When he finally reached the top, he found he was on top of a cache where there were large objects that contained the good smelling stuff. He climbed again until he reached the top edge of one of those large objects. Then he found he had to go quite a ways down. He was so exhausted, he thought to himself, “Why not just jump in?” So he did. He did not come up again because he had jumped into a very large container of seal oil. When an animal with fur gets soaked with oil, the fur gets so heavy that the animal sinks to the bottom.



KITTIWAKE SEAGULL A very long time ago there lived a couple with a child. One spring the couple took a baby kittiwake seagull to their home for a pet for their child. They kept it all summer, fall, and into a good part of the winter. One day during the winter months the child decided to let the pet seagull out for fresh air, but to his dismay the seagull flew so far away that the boy lost track of it, but could hear it in the storm hollering that he was freezing. “Kee-kee-nack-toong-ah.” Up to this day the kittiwake seagull still makes that sound similar to the Eskimo word for freezing.



THE FOX AND THE RAVEN A very long time ago there were two brothers, a raven and a fox living together. They would look for food, the fox walking and the raven flying. Whenever the raven found some food, he would take it home and share it with the fox. One day the fox was out walking, looking for food. When he reached a lake, he looked around and noticed that there was a little river flowing from the lake. And across the river there was a house with smoke coming out of the chimney. When he reached it he deliberately made loud noises so that the people inside could hear him. Then an ugly woman came out of the house. She was not only ugly, she was very un¬ tidy. Her eyes and nose were runny and fish scales covered her. The clothing she wore was so ragged that her sleeves were only as far as her elbows, and her hair was so messy that it seemed impossible to untangle. When she saw the fox, she asked, “How do I look?” The fox told her he had never seen such a pretty woman before in his life. She then became very friendly and invited him in to eat with her. When the fox finished



eating the best of her food, the woman gave him a string of fish. “Come back for more whenever you need it,” she said. When the fox reached home, the raven had just come back from looking for food. Upon seeing the fish, the raven said, “Where did you get the fish?” The fox said, ‘Til tell you.” So the fox de¬ scribed where he went and whom he saw. The raven got very anxious to go to this woman to get some fish too. Early the next morning the raven set out. When he reached the place, he deliberately made a loud noise outside the house until she came out.



As soon as the woman saw the raven, she asked, "How do I look?” The raven was so anxious to say the right thing that without realizing what he was saying he said, "You are the most ugly woman . . Then he stopped, but the woman had already heard him. "Then,” said the woman, "you go home with¬ out any fish.” So the raven sadly turned and walked home. There the fox asked him why he didn’t bring home any fish. Then the raven sadly repeated what he had said. "I thought I told you not to tell her the truth,” said the fox. But now it was too late.



MIGHTY MOUSE Once a very long time ago there lived a mouse out in the country. After a very good night’s sleep, he got up from the bed and started stretching himself up and down. Every time he put his arms up he would touch the sky. He touched it several times. Finally, he said to himself, “Maybe if I cut down the pole the sky would fall down and the people would think I am the greatest mouse there is in the whole wide world.” So he started chewing on the pole that kept the sky up. He chewed and chewed. When the pole started swaying, he pushed the pole and ran to move out of the way. When he got quite a ways away from the pole, he looked back. A leaf lay fallen on the ground—not the sky. Then he noticed he was near a lake. He thought to himself, “If I swim this great big lake, surely the people will think I am the greatest.” So he started to swim the lake until he reached the other side. When he got out of the water he shook himself and looked back. From this angle, the lake looked like no more than a footprint of a human being. Then he noticed a mountain and thought to



himself, “If I move this mountain I shall be the greatest mouse in the whole wide world.” So he started to dig and dig underneath the mountain until it was all cleared. It began to move. Step by step he moved the mountain until at last he reached and shoved it into the ocean. There it still remains—known to people as Little Diomede Island.



MISCHIEVOUS CHILDREN Once a very long time ago there lived a com¬ munity on the coast with children so mischievous they were always giving the poor orphan such terrible names as “liar.” One evening the children were gathered in their community building playing games until the wee hours in the morning. Then the orphan went out. He noticed a light very far toward the hills jumping to and fro and coming toward the vil¬ lage. He ran back into the building and warned the children to be quiet, but they only sang in chorus that the orphan was a liar. They laugh¬ ingly told him to go out to look again. When he went back in, he told them it was much closer. Again they called him a liar and told him to look again. Two more times he warned them to no avail. Finally he climbed to the middle of the ceil¬ ing where they had some skins drying in a rack and then he put his small fingers in the crack. The boards wedged together tighter and caught his little fingers very tight. When that thing came in, it was a horned beast that moved by jumping to and fro. At every bound a child would follow behind it with



no will of his own. When all of the children were following behind, the horned beast made one more round and the orphan was pulled like a magnet. But his fingers were too firmly wedged to be drawn by the beast. The beast then kept jumping until he had all the children doing likewise, and then he went with them all the way to the mountains. That morning the parents of the children went to the community building, wondering why it was so quiet. When the orphan had told them what had happened, they followed the tracks until they reached an old faded horn. Since it was wintertime each child had there frozen to death after having trailed behind the horned beast.



FLOUR FOR FOOD This is a true story about some Eskimos quite a few years ago. It takes place somewhere north of Kivalina when the schooners first started coming up this way. Once the white people abandoned a schooner with just about everything in it. When the Natives saw some sacks they decided to use the sacks and dump whatever was in it on the beach. When they finished their dumping, there was a small hill that was origi¬ nally in the sacks. There was one widow in the community with small children who was always short of food. As she looked at the small white hill, she thought to herself, “If it was not of any use to the white people, they would not carry it around in their boat.” She then hauled as much as she could and placed it wherever she could safely put it away. When her children were whining because of hunger, she decided to try mixing it with water and putting it on the fire, adding a bit of seal oil in it. With heat it started to thicken. When it was cool, she gave some to her children. They liked it! The widow then cooked some of the stuff for



the people meeting in the community building. They liked it too! Then she told them of that white stuff they had dumped on the beach. Then the whole community put it back in the sacks. Of course, it was flour, the same as we know today.



GLOSSARY AKTJTAQ (pp. 19, 27), the traditional “Eskimo ice cream” in Yupik language QASEGIQ (pp. 39, 41, 42), the kashim or village com¬ munal house traditionally for men, a Yupik word QERRUN (p. 42), honey bucket, usually a urine con¬ tainer, Yupik KARGI (p. 53), the kashim in the Inupiaq language UGRUK (pp. 53, 54), bearded seal, Inupiaq BELUGA (p. 54), white whale, a Russian loan word ANGATKUQ (p. 63), shaman, medicine man, Inupiaq BALEEN (p. 67), whalebone, an English word

Note: The assistance of Irene Reed, director of the Eskimo Language Workshop, University of Alaska, in preparing this glossary is gratefully acknowledged.



AUTHOR’S NOTES Togiak Tales for Children are written for second and third grade reading levels. Collect¬ ing them proved difficult, for there was some reluctance in sharing the old stories. Four of the stories promised have not yet been told be¬ cause of this reluctance on the part Of the older people. Very few of the younger generation know any of the-old stories. However, during this 1969-70 school year interest has increased to the point that I believe stories will be more readily shared next year. I expect, then, to expand my collection and to con¬ tinue the use of tapes and slides to stimulate interest among the younger people. The use of a series of three films entitled Tuktu and the Ice Palace, Tuktu and His Animal Friends, and Tuktu and the Clever Hands plus classroom demonstrations of the string games by mothers and grandmothers served to promote even more interest in the old stories and seemed to create a common bond of interest between the children and adults. I made specific use of these stories as follows: My Native aide read and interpreted to my first graders the “Eskimo Bedtime Story” after which the children made their own sentences



and illustrations of what they heard. The story of “Aruyak and His Sling” was read aloud to the class. Then the children discussed this story bringing to mind other stories they had heard which included ghosts. The story “Porcupine Hunt ’ I recorded as told in Native. The children first listened to this tape and then heard the story in English while looking at the illustra¬ tions. They were quite enthusiastic over hear¬ ing it first in Native and then in English. How Foxes Became Red” — story not in¬ cluded here — we decided to dramatize. Four of the better readers practiced until they could be taped along with the mouse and fox char¬ acters who memorized their parts. The char¬ acters also wore masks and dramatized the scenes for slides. When the slides and tapes weie leady, we invited the parents to a program in our room. They showed enthusiastic appre¬ ciation. Some parents who were not able to come to the program later came when we pre¬ sented the slides and tapes to the other class¬ rooms. The second, third, and fourth graders also used these stories and expressed real inter¬ est and appreciation. These visual aides are a valuable part of my teaching materials and have given me the desire to continue building upon them as I work among



the Eskimo. Through such projects, better friendships have been established along with a keener understanding of Native culture. Helen Stewart

The purpose of Bethel Tales for Children is to provide reading for enjoyment for first and second grade students. Hopefully, the legends when used in an independent manner will help revive interest in Eskimo culture and, at the same time, present a setting already known to the children and thus give them a sense of identity. These legends will be first introduced in an Alaskan unit and then made available on a table for leisure reading. Later they might be used for dramatization or for writing a group poem. Gladys Fancher

Since most of the legends that we hear originated with the Inupiaq Eskimo, I decided to gather a few legends from the Yupik Eskimo people of the Lower Yukon and Kuskokwim. The legends are very difficult to obtain as there



are very few resource people located in Anchor¬ age. Another difficulty in getting these legends is that the person hearing them must be fluent in the Yupik language or the teller must have sufficient command of the English language to interpret the legend into English. The first three legends were told to me by Sophie Hootch, who was born at St. Michaels on March 1, 1931, and is presently living in Emmonak. They were told to her by Anthony Kelly from Emmonak. Kelly is in his early fifties; he was born at Nunakak. He heard legends in his early teens while taking steam baths in the qasegiq. The last two legends were told to me by my father, Albert C. Romer, Sr. He is in his late fifties and was born in the village of Napakiak. He grew up around Bethel, and as a young man he traveled extensively along the Kuskokwim River. I suppose he heard the legends during his travels. VanStone mentions this legend, “The War Between the Eskimos/’ on pages 118-119 of his Eskimos of the Nushagak River. This legend recalls the record Sounds of Alaska. One of the Eskimos from the North was telling how they cleaned their cache real clean before a whale hunt, so when the whale saw



where he was going to be laid or stored, he was willing to be caught. There is another legend along the Kuskokwim which is similar. Any time people caught wild game, such as geese, muskrat, mink, mukluk, they would eat on the bones, just as clean as can be. And then afterwards the bones would be put in wooden plates, and then they would tell one of the boys or girls to take the bones and not drop any of them in throwing them away. They would throw them in a pond or lake, saying in Eskimo, “Tuma taigeji,” which means “Come back soon.” The legend says that if you pick the bones clean and take care of them, the game will come back soon. Herman Romer

“Okailuk’s Story of Kotzebue” was told to me by my uncle. His name was Abraham Lincoln. His Eskimo name was Okailuk. My husband and I went to visit him and taped his story. He told it in Eskimo. I still have the tape. He died about six years ago, but his wife is still alive. Her name is Blanche. He was the first one who started Eskimo dancing at Kotzebue for the tourists, but he



made it real short when he told the story to them. He heard it from his parents. His parents are from Kotzebue. Marie Stalker

All the stories that follow “Okailuk’s Story of Kotzebue,” except “Flour for Food,” are well known stories among my Native people. Some were told to me as a very small child by my mother’s stepfather, but I had forgotten most of them until they were re-told to me by various people this winter of 1970. Let me tell you something about these people. Emily Barr is about eighty years old and was born at Shishmaref and raised in Kivalina and Point Hope. She later moved to Cape Espenberg after she married Thomas Barr. The two stories she told are, she claims, originally children’s stories from Cape Espenberg. Rosie Barr was my mother. She would have been in her seventies had she lived up to this day. She was born and raised in Shishmaref and later moved to Cape Espenberg, where she resided with her husband until attending school became compulsory for under-age children. Conse¬ quently, they moved to Deering to have their



children go to school. She lived in Kotzebue until her death in 1963. Freda Goodwin, who is 83 years old, told “The Fox and the Raven” in the Senior Center in her Native language. She was born in Norvik and lived at Golovin, Selawik, Noatak, Fair¬ banks, Candle, and Kotzebue. Isaiah Barr was born and raised at Cape Espenberg and later went to school in Deering. He is now a resident of Kotzebue when he is not at a job in the summer. Bessie Cross is a resident of Kotzebue who was born at Cape Espenberg and educated at Deering. She is in her late forties or early fifties. Paul Green, according to his book I AM ESKIMO, was born in Kotzebue and raised in Kivalina. He was born in 1901 on January 7. He told “Flour for Food” to people in the Senior Center in the winter of 1970.



Martha Barr


INDEX OF PLACE NAMES Bethel, 7, 21, 43, 45, 85

Napakiak, 86

Bristol Bay, 43, 47

Noatak, 89

Candle, 89

Noatak River, 60

Cape Espenberg, 88, 89

Nunakak, 38, 86

Deering, 88, 89

Nushagak River, 47, 86

Emmonak, 7, 40, 42, 86

Point Hope, 88

Fairbanks, 89

Quinahak, 47

Golovin, 89

St. Michaels, 86

Kaikaituruk, 53, 60, 61

Selawik, 89

Kipnayak, 35

Sheldon’s Point, 38, 39

Kivalina, 79, 88, 89

Sheshalik, 60

Kotzebue, 8, 53, 60, 61, 87, 88 89

Shishmaref, 88

Kotzebue Bay, 60

Snow Hill, 68 Takshak, 48

Kuskokwim River, 7, 23, 47, 85, 86, 87

Togiak, 7, 9, 83

Kwigmute, 40, 42

Yukon River, 7, 48, 85

Little Diomede Island, 76


Date Due

e 99 .t/ 114 Ta.es °* Eskimo Alaska. Drawin

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E99 .E7T14 Tales of Eskimo Alaska