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Kalnaakw x’eidax
by Emma Williams


1 A little bit,
as I know it
I will set forth.
My husband’s mother,

5 who was called Kinle,
a little story which she told me herself (lit. speech)
I will set forth.
The Tongass tribe who lived at Fort Tongass,
she used to tell me,

10 American soldiers moved among them from the States.
After the soldiers had been there two years,
she was born.
(By that she found out how many years old she was. (lit., acquired her age)
Someone found out for her the year

15 that the soldiers moved there;
that’s how her age became known.)
That’s what her grandmother told her.
Then she moved to this side
to the isthmus at Cat Island.

20 Daasaxakw is called Cat Island
in English.
They lived on the isthmus,
To get food for themselves in springtime.
they would dry halibut

25 outside when the sun was shining,
and seaweed,
they would stand working on it.
At first
they would stay there.

30 After that
they would separate
to dry fish in the summer.
They would move to the mouths of streams;
they were scattered.

35 And here to the south,
here at the mouth of Salmon Creek,
there used to stand a house,
and there were smokehouses.
Summer food

40 they would prepare for themselves there.
So Ketchikan
is a stream of the Tongass tribe, Ketchikan.

45 whom the white people used to call Chief Johnson,
was the first to build a house, a smokehouse,
at the mouth of this creek, Salmon Creek.
White people used to ask
why it was called Ketchikan.

50 Kich:
the river,
which used to be a humpie creek,
Salmon Creek,
as my husband’s mother

55 used to tell me,
would be just full (of humpies),
she told (me).
It used to be a humpie creek,
and when they were swimming along

60 at the mouth of the creek,
the sand bar which extended out,
the old salmon would swim up to it.
And after they died, when the sun shone on them,
they putrefied.

65 So this stream is called Kich-xaan,
Salmon Creek.
After this,
they would move back to their village,

70 to put up falltime food.
they would dry the meat for themselves
for winter.
And seal, they would boil the fat

75 for oil.
And deer meat,
when it was dry,
good and dry,
they would boil it,

80 and dry it again.
Then when it had cooked
and thoroughly dried,
also seal meat,
they would put it in seal oil

85 as food for the winter.
Bentwood boxes,
Tlingits used to make bentwood boxes.
In them they would put
food for the winter,

90 and cover them well.
After the food was all put up,
they would move.
I’m telling about what my mother-in-law said.
They moved to Metlakatla.

95 They lived there through the winter.
This is why it was called
Taakw Aani, (that is,) Winter Village.
From here, it is perhaps eighteen miles from here,

100 But now
Tsimshians live there.
But they are not all Tsimshians now;
mixed people (Tlingits and Tsimshians)
live in Metlakatla;

105 they are not only Tsimshians.
This is what she used to tell me,
my husband’s mother.
Houses used to stand there.
We used to farm

110 on the land which she gave to me.
I saw that we farmed them
on the land that she gave to me.
The remains of house posts

115 were sticking up out of the dirt,
and there were ashes. (lit., remains of firewood)
That’s why I believed her,
Metlakatla, the Tongass tribe,
our tribe,

120 lived there first,
on that land.
It was called Taakw Aani.
So they lived there.
Then when spring came,

125 they moved back to where they lived (in the spring).
Now, this one
on Cat Island,
a house, our house,
was called Ravine House.

130 It had sleeping platforms1 inside;
they were built inside it.
There were fourteen (levels) of them,
they were dug inside there.
They stayed there during the winter.

135 Now they used to have war long ago.
At night
they would attack one another.
For that reason they dug inside (that house)
that many sleeping platforms;

140 there were fourteen (levels of) sleeping platforms in there.
Women and children
they would put (on the bottom),
whereas the men
would stay awake on the top level.

145 They would listen for war parties --
that’s what they called it
when they would attack each other --
to avoid (being killed) they lived like that.
My husband’s mother used to tell (me)

150 that falltime high tides
would come in there
where the fire was;
that’s how deep it was.
So it was called Ravine House.

155 Now my elder sister
was given this name,
That is, they would despair
of going down the sleeping platforms,

160 (all) fourteen of them,
and back up.
The name is derived from this,
it is my elder sister’s name.

165 This is her second name,
from that Ravine House,
she was given that name.
This is as much as I will tell of this. (lit., that I have told this speech)

170 This Weiha, who has come here, (Tlingit name given to Jeff Leer by Nellie Willard)
this is what I have given him,
what I know of
our heritage.
Long after (that lifestyle was gone)

175 we were born.
Not even a hundred years
do we know of their lives.
Therefore, only a little,
as I know it,

180 I have given him at this time,
Weiha, (who) is sitting opposite me here.
That’s as much as I have to say.