Alaskool -- Online resources about Alaska Native History, Education, Language, and Culture
Tsimshian Texts by Franz Boas, 1902
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The Sealion Hunters

Told By Moses

There were four-one of the Wolf clan, one of the Raven clan, one of the Eagle clan, and one of the Bear clan.  They were great hunters.  There were four rocks.  The men went out in their canoes to there rocks, and when they arrived there they found the rocks full of sealions.  The rock of one of the men was not full.  He caught only two.  The men of the Raven clan, of the Wolf clan, and of the Eagle clan caught a great many.  Then the one man was ashamed because he had caught only two.  The next time they started he came home again almost empty handed.  He had caught only one.  Then he was sad.

One evening he started and stole the sealions that were on the rock of the man of the Wolf clan.  When, the next morning, this man started there were no sealions on his rock.  Then he knew that another person had stolen them.  Therefore he carved the figure of a sealion out of wood and put it into the water.  It was under water a short time and came up again and floated.  Then he carved a sealion out of another piece of wood.  He put it into the water, and again it floted.  He tried four kinds of wood, but they did not prove to be good.  Then he took a piece of hard wood, red in color like the skin of a sealion.  He carved it and threw it into the water.  Now it was very good.  It did not become weak.  He laid it on his own rock. 

Now, the other person started again at night, intending to steal the sealions.  When he came to the rock, he saw the sealion lying there.  He took his harpoon and speared it.  Then the sealion dived and swam away.  (In former times harpoons were fastened to cedar-bark lines.)  The man held the line and paid it out.  For a long time the sealion dragged the canoe along, and the line was all paid out.  Then the person tried to let it go, but the line stuck to his hands and the sealioon swam away with him.

It was four nights since he had left.  For four days the sealion swam through the water.  The man and his companions had lost sight of the mountains and they were far out at sea.  The man was crying all the time.  They went on for a long time - for ten days and ten nights.  The sealion kept on going all the time.  Now he went ashore at a distant country and they landed on a sandy beach.  They pulled the canoe up and placed it under the trees.  Then they sat down.  Behold, early in the morning a canoe was coming.  One small man was in the canoe, but he was using a large canoe. When he came opposite them, he rose.  He held a line.  Then he jumped into the water.  For a short time he clubbed halibut under water, and then he took his line and strung them up.  He caught many halibut, and had a long string.  Then he emerged again.  He took his canoe and went aboard.  He put all the halibut that he had caught under water into the canoe.  Then men who were sitting under the trees saw what he was doing.  He stayed in the canoe for a long time.  Then he took his line a second time and dived.  Again he clubbed halibut under water.  Then the men who were sitting under the trees launched their canoe and paddled up to the canoe of the little man.  One of them took two halibut, and the returned to the shore as quickly as they could.  There they sat down.  They had been sitting there a long time when the person emerged, holding in his hands a string of fish, which he had caught.  He put them into his canoe; but now he missed two halibut.  He put the fish into the canoe, and pulledup his ancvhor.  Then he went ashore.  He landed on the sandy beach, went up and found the four men, then he asked, "Who of you stole my halibut?" and three of the men said, "This one took them."  They said so, pointing to their companion.  Then the man took him by the feet, struck him against a stone, and killed him, because he had stolen the halibut.  Now there were only three men left.  Their companion was dead.

Then the man returned and landed at his town.  He carried his halibut up to the house and said to his friends, "There are people on the other side of the bay.  I killed one of them because he stole two halibut."  The people said, "Call them."  Then they sent a man to call them, and when they came the people gave them to eat. 

There were many people.  They were all of the same size.  They were very small.  The three men were by far the largest.  They stayed there a long time.  Then the people made wooden clubs, and said, "Tomorrow we shall be attacked by warriors."  The sky darkened, although it was not extraordinarily dark.  Now, there was a great sandy point below the town.  There was an open prairie there.  Then many birds came-swans, cranes, geese, gray cranes, laughing geese, ducks, blackbords of the sea, ducks of the Nass river, gulls, cormorants.  They alighted on the prairie.  Then the people rose.  They took their wooden clubs and ran down right among the birds, and began to strike them.  The feathers of the birds were flying about, filling the mouths and the noses of the people.  Many of them died, and only a moderate number returned. 

The three men did not join them.  They looked at the fight.  Then they said, "It is not difficult to fight with the birds.  Let us try tomorrow."  They did so.  At daybreak the birds arrived and sat down on the prairie.  They called it war.  The birds did not come there to feed.  Then the three men ran down.  They did not take any clubs, but they just took the birds and twisted off their necks.  They did so and accomplished a great deal.  Not one of the men was dead, but they killed a great many birds.  Then the people were glad.  They are called G·ilg·in·mgan.  The three men had killed almost one-half of the birds.  The birds came there for one month. Then they left.  Now the people resolved to take pity on the three men.  They did so, and sent them back to their own town.  They returned, and that is the end.