From the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology
Tlingit Myths and Texts
Collected in Sitka and Wrangell in 1904, published 1908
There was a great famine at Sitka, and all the people went halibut fishing. Then a certain man went with his wife to the mouth of Redoubt bay. He had prepared barks some time before, and, when they got to this place, they made a house out of them. They fished there for a long time, but caught no more than one or two halibut a week. By the end of two months they had little to live on except shellfish and other things picked up at low tide.
One evening they caught a small halibut at their fishing ground. They cooked a piece of it and put the rest on the drying frame in the brush house the man had constructed outside.
Next day they heard a noise there as if something were being thrown down and moved about. The woman said, “What can that be?” Then her husband went out and was astonished to see two medium-sized devilfish lying there. He wondered how they had gotten up from the beach. Then he went in and said, “Wife (dja), I am in luck. There are two large devilfish out there. I do not know who brought them. Tomorrow morning we will take them and see if we can not catch some halibut. The person who brought them here is very kind, for I have been hunting everywhere vainly for bait.” The woman sat down and considered. She said, “Do you know who brought them here?” He said, “No.” Then she said, “I will tell you who brought them here. Don’t you remember that my son was drowned a year ago, and no one has seen anything of him since? It must be he, who has taken pity on us because he sees how poor we are. I will call his name if I hear anyone whistle tomorrow or any other night, for I know it is my son.” So the woman spoke.
In the morning they went out with these devilfish and caught two halibut. Evening came on. After they had reached home and it was dark, they began to cook some halibut. Just as the woman was putting some into the pot a person whistled behind the house. Then she said, “We have longed for you, my dear son. Come in. Don’t whistle around us. We have been wishing for you for the last year, so do not be afraid. It is only your father and I. Come in.” Then it whistled again. The man went to the door, opened it, and said, “Come in, my son, I think you have come to help us because we are very poorly off here. The door is open. Come right in.” So the father said. And without their seeing him enter, all of a sudden he was seated opposite them with his hands over his face. Then they spoke to him, saying, “Is it you, my son?” He only whistled (by drawing in his breath). That was the way he spoke to them. Toward midnight he began to speak. The father said, “Is it you, my son?” The land-otter-man (kū’cta-qa or kushtaka) said, “Yes.” He motioned to them that there was something outside which he had brought for them. It was some more devilfish. He said, “In the morning we will go out.” The woman gave him a pillow and two blankets for the night, and he slept on the other side of the fire.
So early in the morning that it was yet dark he took his father by the feet and shook him, saying, “Get up. We will go out.” He told him to take his fishing line, and they carried down the canoe. Then the land-otter-man stepped in and his father followed. His father gave him a paddle. The canoe went flying out to the halibut ground. It was his son’s strength that took them there so quickly. Then the land-otter-man suddenly stopped the canoe. He took the line and baited a hook with one devilfish tentacle. He baited all of the hooks and lowered them. Then he tied the end of the line to the seat. He said to his father, “Put the blanket over you. Do not watch me.” His father did so but observed him through a hole in the blanket.
The land-otter-man, without causing any motion in the canoe, jumped overboard, went down the line, and put the largest halibut that he could find on their hooks. When he came in he shook the canoe and his father pretended to wake up. He gave the line to his father who began to pull up. Very many big halibut began to come up, which he clubbed and threw into the canoe as fast as he could. Then he turned the canoe around and started for home. The canoe was full.
On the way the land-otter-man was in the bow holding a spear. After he had held it there for a long time he threw it. His father could not see that he had thrown it at a large seal. He brought it close to the canoe, gave it one blow to kill it and threw it into the canoe. When they came ashore it was almost daybreak. Then, motioning to his father that the raven might call before he reached shelter, he ran straight up into the woods.
Now the man’s wife came down and began cutting up the halibut. By the time they had it all into the house it was dark. The same evening, before they knew it, he was with them again. Then the man took some pieces of raw halibut, cut them into bits and placed them before him. He turned his back on them and ate very fast. He could eat only raw food.
About a week later they told their son not to go into the woods at night but to stay with them. So he did. When he wanted to go fishing he would awaken his father while it was still dark, and they would start off. Each time they brought in a load of seal, halibut, and all sorts of things. They began to have great quantities of provisions.
After that they began to see his body plainly. His mouth was round, and long hair had grown down over his back to his buttocks. He took nothing from his father and mother but raw food.
Some time after they began to pack up to come to Sitka. He now talked to them like a human being and always stayed with them. He helped load their canoe, and his father gave him a paddle. Then they set out, the land-otter-man in the bow, his father in the stern, and his mother between. When they came to Poverotni point (Kaodjîxîtî-q!a), the woman saw the shadow of her son’s arms moving, his hands which held the paddle being invisible. She said to her husband, “What is the matter with my son! He does not seem to be paddling. I can see only his shadow now.” So she moved forward to see whether he was asleep or had fallen into the water. Her son was not there. The blanket he had had around his knees was there, but he was gone. She said to her husband, “Your son is gone again,” and he replied, “I can not do anything more. He is gone. How can I bring him back?” So they went on to Sitka.
When they came to Sitka, they reported all that had happened. The father said, “My son helped us. Just as we got around the point he disappeared out of the canoe.” So his friends gave a feast for him. lIis father’s name was Sᴀkī’, and the place where they fished for halibut is now called Sᴀkī’-ī’dî.