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Kalnaakw x’ei dax
by Emma Williams


1 In spring the food (cycle) begins,
they count as the first month,
March I guess;
the Tlingits used to call it Return Month.

5 In that (month) they would move to camp,
behind where the halibut grounds are, (lit., to the landward side of …)
they would live there.
They used halibut hooks,
not like nowadays,

10 the way the white people do it,
(with) long lines;
they had halibut hooks, and sites,
they fished for halibut on their sites. (lit., they baited (hooks) on the float sites)
Wherever they could, on the other side,

15 and behind them,
whatever (they could) they used as landmarks3;
when (their sightings) intersect,
they let go of the halibut hook.
They baited them with octopus.

20 After so much time (had elapsed) they knew;
they heard a raven cry.
"Hah, it made a special cry;
there is a halibut on (the hook)."

25 They would go right out (to get it).
Right away, they kept bringing halibut ashore.
Now the women
would cut up the halibut the next day, (lit., after staying overnight)
it was not cut up (when) fresh,

30 (but) the next day.
First they cut just the tail off,
(and) they water and the blood
would run out through there.
Not till the next day

35 did they cut up the halibut;
thus they hung it up by the head on a rack.
When the skin was dry they would slice them up thin.
There is dry fish made from the belly;
it is sun-dried.

40 When it was good and stiff
they would bring them inside to dry,
and pack them in stacks. (lit., on top of one another)
They didn’t have freezers as they do today;
They just dried (their) food.

45 Now when halibut (season) was over,
it was time for (gathering) seaweed;
there was that also.
They always gathered it in this way:
they would move to an area behind it;

50 they would busy themselves getting seaweed. (lit., stand around seaweed)
They did not smoke it long ago, as they do today,
they just pressed it into patties in bentwood boxes.
They pressed it to the right size to fit in the bentwood boxes.
So many times

55 they would put them out in the sun,
(and) turn them over,
and turn them over again.
They knew when they were well dried.
And at this time, toward winter,

60 they would get dried grass.
They dried it well also,
and in between the (layers of grass)
they would pack seaweed with it (lit., pack up, i.e. by stacking up)
into bentwood boxes.

65 So in that way they would not stick together.
Also, on top,
they would tie covers on the bentwood boxes, (lit., they would tie the mouths
of them with the covers)
food for the winter,
Then they would put stones on top of them,

70 for weight. (lit., it is its weight)
But they were not (left) on top for long;
they were taken off.
So it is, and (what) we call cockles,
they would bring them up from the tide flats too.

75 These they also made into blocks4
after they were cooked.
They used red cedar.
They would shave them thin,
or else split them,

80 and they then arranged the cockles so that they were sort of folded together.
They would thread them on (thin-) shaven red cedar. (lit., they poked it through them)
The right size for drying,
They also used to dry (fish) for dry fish;

85 it would get good and dry.
They would put that up too,
but it was for food for the summer.
After they had been working like mad, (lit., troubled)
they would eat it.

90 At this time it became summer, (lit., here)
(and) they would move to the mouths of streams.
The tribes each owned their own streams, (lit., there were one’s streams, the tribe's)
they owned streams,
they moved to them.

95 They built all the smokehouses at their mouths.
They went in different directions,
to their streams.
When fish swam into the creeks,
they would catch some by gaffing them,

100 and they would dry them.
They would move along with the (salmon) (lti., among them)
my husband’s mother used to tell me.
Where there were lots
they would dry them there.

105 Right there, caches, she called them,
they made caches (in) large trees.
Then, up on the limbs,
right there, (in) little houses called caches,
they would leave them there,

110 (and) again to the mouth of a different river –
the salmon were swimming to one after another –
there they traveled along with them; (lit., among them)
they kept moving on.
At this point it became fall,

115 and they would move again,
to where they could kill deer.
(In) this also the men of long ago were industrious,
They would drag the deer down to the beach.
The women would dismember them,

120 the thigh meat
and the shoulder meat.
The ribs
they would chop off the first thing.
Right over the fire too,

125 Quickly –
they would not smoke it slowly –
(but) quickly, over the fire;
as soon as it turned black
quickly, like this,

130 my husband’s father used to tell me,
they did not smoke the meat slowly,
(because) it would spoil if it got done slowly.
It would get just partially cooked,
when they were going to dry the meat,

135 which they put up in the fall.
They are called "fat coats",
really fat deer;
they would cut the fat (layer) off of them.
These were also dried.

140 These too,
they would dry them for winter.
The "fat coats",
What we call soaked dry fish,
they would make them along with it. (lit., they make it its side dish)

145 They cooked them along with it,
(and) they ate them with it.
That is the way food was prepared for winter.
Long ago deer were plentiful,
before there were white men.

150 Whenever they had need of food,
they would get some long ago. (lit., gather, or work on it)
But not these days.
Now many people do not go to summer camps, (lit., do not frequent camps)
(and) they are sort of stingy (lit., it is like they are stingy)

155 (with) all these foods.
That’s how it is.
when the deer meat had finished drying,
they would cut it all up into serving pieces,

160 the right size for eating.
Then when they were done cooking,
the deer meat,
they would dry it again.
When they were good and dry,

165 fried seal fat,
they would put it into its oil.
They would save that also for winter
in seal oil. (lit., into …)
when they were going to eat them,

170 rather small, (lit., just so itsy big)
as they were to be eaten,
they took them out.
They also kept them in bentwood boxes.
Those who have gone on before us,

175 that is how they used to prepare their food long ago. (lit., thus they stood about their mouths)
They did not eat food from stores,
our ancient people.
They would prepare food for themselves, (lit., they would go about their mouths)
a lot of food of different kinds.

180 Also summer berries,
they would make into preserves.
Different kinds,
and blueberries,

185 they made into preserves. (lit., into what was to be jam)
They would put that into bentwood boxes too.
They packed them with skunk cabbage (leaves).
That too,
I suppose in the same way that we eat fruit nowadays,

190 after they had eaten meat or dry fish,
they would eat those preserves afterwards.
They used it for dessert. (lit., that which is after their meal)
That is what I know;
I have given you this story.

195 He has asked me to speak again,
this young man who has come to us.
He wants
me to tell a little bit about clams.
From the New Year,

200 on the third month,
March, it is called,
I think it is the one we call Return Month.
After the middle of the month
Tlingits leave clams alone;

205 they don’t eat them.
The insides start turning green.
My husband’s mother
used to tell me,
"You should not eat clams, (you plural)

210 after the middle of the month;
you should just stop eating them."
Again in the fall month, October,
not until after the middle of the month
do they start eating clams again.

215 They are poisonous (lit., they are harmful to one, thus)
when they are eaten in summer.
For this reason they stopped eating clams;
they didn’t eat them.
But what we call cockles,

220 they also left off eating them.
May, we call it,
Spring Month,
not until after (May)
did they start eating cockles again.

225 She used to say,
my husband’s mother,
"It’s all right now; it’s time now (lit., it is good …)
for us to eat cockles again.
The summer salmon have now swum over them;

230 it’s all right to eat them." (lit., it has become good)
At that time
we would start to eat cockles again.
That is what we were told.
So, many times

235 white people
have been poisoned by them;
in summer or spring,
they still eat them,
but not Tlingits.

240 They just leave them alone,
because they know about them.
And this also,
I remember,
my husband’s mother

245 used to say to us, (lit., about us)
"Don’t eat mussels off of submerged logs. (lit., water bottom trees)
They are poisonous
when mussels are taken off submerged logs."
A married couple boiled them –

250 she also told me about this –
off submerged logs
they took mussels,
in spring.
They were poisoned by them;

255 they both died
when they ate the mussels.
So they used to consider them poisonous for eating.
My mother-in-law used to tell me,
"Don’t gather mussels off submerged logs;

260 they are poisonous."
Thus I became acquainted with
Tlingit foods;
so I tell my children
at what time

265 they begin to eat them again,
Many times
white men died from it.
In spring and the middle of summer

270 they still eat them.
For this reason those who have gone on before us,
because they told us (about it),
this young man who has come to us,
(who) writes our language,

275 I have given this to him
about seafoods;
that is enough.