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

p. 48

Eh-Kolie, The Whale


From the twilight of tribal history the emblem of the whale has been used by the Nootka Indians of Vancouver Island. This tribe were great sea hunters and pursued the whale many miles from land in their Wolf canoes.

The Nootkas believed that their universe lay on the back of a great whale and at the bottom of the sea he dwelt in a community house. He who is known as Eah-toop, the right whale, ruled over this Domain. In his household were two beautiful young mermaid-like women whose names were Ohk-iss and Paytles and who, at one time, were kidnapped by the spirit of Sin-Set but were rescued from the Wolf house by Tootooch, the Thunder Bird and returned by him to their home on the ocean floor.

The Indians always rejoiced when a whale was cast up on the beach and, if the Chief of the tribe was not present, there would be much fighting and quarreling. Often knives would flash and cut. Some would want this or that piece of whale meat or blubber. Traditionally, the whale belonged to the Chief, who would divide it according to the rank of individuals in the community after, of course, selecting the choicest parts for his own household. The meat would be boiled, the oil pressed out, and stored to be used later with fish and other foods.

A Haida legend tells of the following incident: The Raven was terribly hungry and wanted a whale to eat. He killed one by waiting for the whale to come up and blow and, when his blow hole was open, the raven flew down his throat and picked at his heart until he died. The Raven forgot that when a whale is dead the blow hole would close, and although he made a lot of fuss and noise he could not escape. He was a prisoner through his own folly.

The dead whale at last floated onto a beach near an Indian village. The Indians seized the prize and began cutting it up. As they did so the Raven flew out and disappeared behind the village. He then returned in human guise while the Indians were still working away at the whale. Said he to them: "You people are lucky today." They replied: "You think so? Well, there is some queer luck here." "What is wrong?" asked Raven. They then told him that when they first started to cut up the whale a bird flew out. He appeared much surprised at this. He asked to be allowed to help them finish and they hurried to fill their boxes with the meat and blubber so as to get them out of reach of the in-coming tide. Raven suggested that they should hold a meeting in the Chief's house and divide the whale so that each should know just how lucky he was. When they were away he assumed his bird-form again and, picking up all their boxes of whale meat, he flew with them to a steep mountain, calling over and over: "Kaw-kaw, some people never know their luck."

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