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p. 29


A man set out from Sitka to a certain camp with his children in order to dry halibut, for in those days that was how they had to get their food. It was spring time. Then, too, they had stone axes and used small half baskets for pots in which to do cooking. His wife and children spent all of their time digging clams, cockles, and other shellfish down on the beach and in laying them aside for future use. The Man, meantime, was hewing out a canoe with his stone ax. They had a hard time, for they had nothing to live on except the things picked up at low tide.

Many years before this man's sister had been drowned, but so long a time had passed that he had forgotten her. She, however, had been taken by the land otters and was married among them, having many children. From around a neighboring point she was watching him. Her children were all working to collect a quantity of food.

After this the woman's husband told her to take a lot of food to her brother. All the land-otter-people are called "Point people" (Q!âtkwedî'); they have plenty of halibut, seal, etc. So she began packing these things up to take them to her brother. In front of his dwelling house her brother had a house made of branches, and one evening he heard someone come in front of his house and seem to lay down a heavy pack there. Then the person said, "The place where you are stopping is wonderfully far from us." He went out and saw a woman but did not know who she was because her arms were grown to her breast and her mouth was thrown open with her upper lip drawn up under her nose. But the woman could see how he felt, so she said to him, "It is I. I am your sister who lives a short distance away around this point." Then she brought the basket into her brother's house and said to him, "Take the things out of the basket, for I have to return before the raven calls."

Next evening she came back with another full basket. This time she said, "You have three nephews who will come over and help you get halibut and other things." So the little otters came to their uncle. From their waist up they looked like human beings; below they were otters, and they had tails. Their mother came with them and began to take her brother's children on her lap saying, "Little tail (L!ît k!Atsk!u'), little tail growing down." As she sang tails began to grow down from them. Then their father looked at them, became angry, and said, "What are you doing to my children anyway?" Immediately she slapped them on the buttocks and said, "Up goes the little tail, up into the buttocks (tû'denAtsî yêq)," and the tails went up into their buttocks.

p. 30

After his nephews had stayed with him for some time the man said within himself, "I have no devilfish for bait," and the same evening the young fellows were gone after it. Although it was high tide many devilfish were found in front of his house. The young otters called good weather bad and bad weather good.

One day they went out with their uncle to fish, and, when he put his line down with the buoy on it, the little otters all jumped into the water. They went down on the line and put on the hook the biggest halibut they could find. After they had brought in the canoe loaded twice their uncle had an abundance of provisions.

In the evening the otters had worked so hard that they fell asleep on the opposite side of the fire with their tails close to the blaze. Then their uncle said to them, "Your handy little tails are beginning to burn." On account of those words all became angry and left him, going back to their father. Then the man's sister came to him and asked what he had said to his nephews. He said, "I simply told them that their clothes were beginning to bum on them." So the otters' father tried to explain it, saying to them: "Your uncle did not mean anything when he said your clothes were beginning to burn. He wanted only to save your clothes. Now go back and stay with him." So they got over their displeasure and went back.

All that time the man was working upon his canoe. He said within himself, "I wonder how my canoe can be gotten down." Next morning his nephews went up, put their tails under it, and pulled it down. When they got it to their uncle's house, he loaded the canoe and started home with them, but quite near his town he missed them out of the canoe. Then all the people there wondered where he could have gotten a canoe load of such things as he had. He gave everything to his friends. Then his wife said to the people, "Something came to help us. We have seen my husband's sister who was drowned long ago, and that is the way we got help."

Afterward he went back to the place where he had received assistance but saw nothing of those who had helped him. He hunted all about the place from which his sister used to come but found nothing except land-otter holes. He became discouraged and gave up searching.


29:a See story 45.

Next: 7. The Land-Otter Son