Sacred Texts  Native American  Northwest  Index  Previous  Next 

Then Raven went to a river beyond Copper river called LAxa'k a and told the people that they were to make canoes out of Skins.

p. 90

[paragraph continues] There he found a chief named Ayâ', who had married the daughter of another chief by whom he had five children, four boys and a girl. His wife was always making baskets, while Ayâ'yî himself went out camping or to other villages. He had a long box that he took about everywhere he went and always had hung overhead. In those days each family tattooed the hands in some special way. One time, when the chief's wife was sitting under this box a drop of blood fell out of it upon her hand. Her husband was away, so she took the box down and looked into it. It was full of severed hands, and by the tattoo marks she knew that they belonged to her uncles. She was very fond of her uncles and cried continually for them.

After her husband had found her weeping several times he asked, "What are you always crying about?" and she said, "I am getting tired of living here. I want to go back to my father and mother." Then he said, "We will start back to your father's place to-morrow." So next day he carried her and her children to a place not far from her father's town and let them off there telling them to walk across. Then he paddled home.

Even before she started across, his wife noticed that there was a heavy fog over her father's village, and when she got there she found it vacant. There was nothing in it but dead bodies, and she went from house to house weeping. Now after her children had thought over this matter for a while, they skinned some of the bodies and made a canoe out of them. It was the first of the skin canoes. It was all on account of Ayâ' having murdered the people of that town. They tied those places on the canoe that had to be made tight, with human hair. Afterward they took it down to the water and put it in, making a kind of singing noise as they went. Nowadays these canoes are made of all kinds of skins, but the hair used is always human hair and they sing in the same manner when they put them into the water. They also made a drum out of human skin.

After that all got into the canoe, and they started for their father's town, singing as they went, while their mother steered. When they came in front of it the people said, "There is a canoe coming. We can hear singing in it, and in the song they are mentioning Ayâ''s name." That was all they could hear. The whole town came out to look at the canoe. Then the eldest son arose in the canoe, mentioned his father's name, and said, "Give me my uncle's hands. If you do not give them to me I will turn this town of yours upside down." When he started this song again he began drumming and the town began to sink. It shook as if there were an earthquake. Now the people of the town became frightened., They went to Ayâ' and told him he would be killed if he did not let the hands go. So he gave them up. When the children got these hands they went away singing the same song. At that the town again began to

p. 91

sink and carried down all of the people with it. Afterward it resumed its former position, but it is said that you can see shells all over the place to this day.

After they had reached their own village Raven said to the eldest boy, "Get some eagle feathers and put them on the mouths of your uncles and all the other town people. After you have placed them there blow them away again. Put their hands in their proper places, and put feathers over the cuts. As soon as you have blown the feathers away from their mouths, they will return to life." He did so, and all the dead people came to life.



89:a This is an error, LAxa'k being a general term for the Yakutat country and people.

Next: 31. Raven, Part III