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The Thunder Bird Tootooch Legends, by W.L. Webber, [1936], at

p. 46

Skana, The Black Fish


The Black Fish (Killer Whale) always fired the imagination of the ancient Indian of the North Pacific who had a great admiration for his ferocious strength. A pack of three or four would attack and kill a large sized whale.

The people who lived among the islands were essentially fishermen of adventurous spirit, often pursuing the whale far out in the ocean in their Wolf canoes. They were constantly in dread of Black Fish and held them in great reverence. Some considered them to be evil spirits as sometimes they took great delight in attacking the canoes, overturning them and drowning the occupants. The Indians believed that when the tenas tillicum (younger members) of the tribe were lost at sea, their spirits, if they did not wish to live in Dreamland, at the Northern lights, could return, to be reincarnated as Black Fish, to roam the waters they loved so well. In the sea there was a stream that was forever flowing Southward and on its bank was Dorsal Fin Town and in one of the many great lodges lived a powerful Prince who had all the Ocean People for his subjects.

A legend of long ago tells of two strong warriors who, in their canoe, were challenged by the Black Fish to mortal combat. The Indians were hard pressed and, as there seemed no way of escape, one of the warriors swore on oath to his comrade saying, that if he were to be done to death he would stab as many Black Fish as came within his reach before he was transformed into one of them. When he sank into the water many bodies of dead Black Fish began to rise to the surface and, after a terrible commotion, there appeared also the body of the Prince. For this fear the members of the warrior's family were permitted to use the Black Fish Crest ever afterward.

The Killer Whale belongs to the clan of the Ocean People who praise him highly and, when attending potlatch gatherings, always come in canoes elaborately decorated with his effigy to signify that he was accustomed to travel and use his body as a canoe.

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