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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 3, 2003 - Issue 86


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When the Animals, Birds and Trees Were Created


Makah Legend


The Indians who live on the farthest point of the northwest corner of Washington State used to tell stories, not about one Changer, but about the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things. So did their close relatives, who lived on Vancouver Island, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Sun cycleWhen the world was very young, there were no people on the earth. There were no birds or animals, either. There was nothing but grass and sand and creatures that were neither animals nor people but had some of the traits of people and some of the traits of animals.

Then the two brothers of the Sun and the Moon came to the earth. Their names were Ho-ho-e-ap-bess, which means "The Two-Men-Who- Changed-Things." They came to make the earth ready for a new race of people, the Indians. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called all the creatures to them.

Some they changed to animals and birds. Some they changed to trees and smaller plants.

Among them was a bad thief. He was always stealing food from creatures who were fishermen and hunters. The Two-Men-Who- Changed-Things transformed him into Seal. They shortened his arms and tied his legs so that only his feet could move. Then they threw Seal into the Ocean and said to him, "Now you will have to catch your own fish if you are to have anything to eat."

SpoonbillOne of the creatures was a great fisherman. He was always on the rocks or was wading with his long fishing spear. He kept it ready to thrust into some fish. He always wore a little cape, round and white over his shoulders. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Great Blue Heron. The cape became the white feathers around the neck of Great Blue Heron. The long fishing spear became his sharp pointed bill.

Another creature was both a fisherman and a thief. He had stolen a necklace of shells. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed him into Kingfisher. The necklace of shells was turned into a ring of feathers around Kingfisher's neck. He is still a fisherman. He watches the water, and when he sees a fish, he dives headfirst with a splash into the water.

CrowsTwo creatures had huge appetites. They devoured everything they could find. The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things transformed one of them into Raven. They transformed his wife into Crow. Both Raven and Crow were given strong beaks so that they could tear their food. Raven croaks "Cr-r-ruck!" and Crow answers with a loud "Cah! Cah!"

The Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things called Bluejay's son to them and asked, "Which do you wish to be--a bird or a fish?"

Bluejay"I don't want to be either," he answered.

"Then we will transform you into Mink. You will live on land. You will eat the fish you can catch from the water or can pick up on the shore. "

Then the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things remembered that the new people would need wood for many things.

TreeThey called one of the creatures to them and said "The Indians will want tough wood to make bows with. They will want tough wood to make wedges with, so that they can split logs. You are tough and strong. We will change you into the yew tree."

They called some little creatures to them. "The new people will need many slender, straight shoots for arrows. You will be the arrowwood. You will be white with many blossoms in early summer."

They called a big, fat creature to them. "The Indians will need big trunks with soft wood so that they can make canoes. You will be the cedar trees. The Indians will make many things from your bark and from your roots."

NestThe Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things knew that the Indians would need wood for fuel. So they called an old creature to them. "You are old, and your heart is dry. You will make good kindling, for your grease has turned hard and will make pitch. You will be the spruce tree. When you grow old, you will always make dry wood that will be good for fires."

To another creature they said, "You shall be the hemlock. Your bark will be good for tanning hides. Your branches will be used in the sweat lodges."

A creature with a cross temper they changed into a crab apple tree, saying, "You shall always bear sour fruit."

TreeAnother creature they changed into the wild cherry tree, so that the new people would have fruit and could use the cherry bark for medicine.

A thin, tough creature they changed into the alder tree, so that the new people would have hard wood for their canoe paddles.

Thus the Two-Men-Who-Changed-Things got the world ready for the new people who were to come. They made the world as it was when the Indians lived in it.

Print and Color Your Own Harbor Seal Picture
Harbor Seal

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Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)


Harbor SealsThe harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), a widespread species in both the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is found in Alaska along the coast from British Columbia north to Kuskokwim Bay and west throughout the Aleutian Islands. Harbor seals are often called “hair” seals by coastal residents of southern Alaska. Most harbor seals are associated closely with coastal waters, although occasional observations up to 50 miles (81 km) offshore have been made. One radio-tagged animal crossed 45 miles (72 km) of open ocean between two islands in the Gulf of Alaska, and another moved over 50 miles (81 km) from Prince William Sound to Middleton Island. Harbor seals haul out of the water periodically to rest, give birth, and nurse their pups. Reefs, sand and gravel beaches, sand and mud bars, and glacial and sea ice are commonly used for hauling sites. Harbor seals are sometimes found in rivers and lakes, usually on a seasonal basis (present in summer, absent in winter). At Iliamna Lake seals are present year-round and are probably resident. Births of harbor seal pups are not restricted to a few major rookeries (as is the case for many species of pinnipeds) but occur at many hauling sites.

Harbor seals do not appear to make long annual migrations like some species of marine mammals. However, considerable local movements occur. Tagging studies have shown that juveniles move up to 150 miles (242 km) from their birth places. A radio-tagged adult was discovered 120 miles (193 km) from its tagging site. As more seals are being satellite-tagged, much more information is becoming available about winter and summer movements.

Harbor Seal FaceGeneral description: Harbor seals are mammals, that is they are hairy, warm-blooded, air-breathing animals which suckle their young. They weigh about 24 pounds (11 kg) at birth and gain weight rapidly during a month-long suckling period, perhaps doubling their weight. Average weight for adults is about 180 pounds (82 kg); males are somewhat larger than females. They are covered with short, stiff, bristle-like hair. Coloration varies, but two basic patterns occur: a dark background with light rings, or light colored sides and belly with dark blotches or spots. Harbor seals molt annually, usually in late summer.

Harbor seals are well adapted to life in the sea. They are able to dive to depths exceeding 600 feet (183 m) and can remain submerged for over 20 minutes. Oxygen-conserving adaptations that allow such dives include reduced peripheral circulation, reduced heart rate, and high levels of myoglobin (muscle oxygen binder). Harbor seals are graceful and efficient swimmers as they use their hind flippers for propulsion and foreflippers as rudders. Movement on land, however, is slow and laborious.

Life history: In Alaska, single pups are born between May and mid-July. The young pups are able to swim almost immediately after birth. They normally remain with their mothers about one month, after which they are weaned and separate from their mother. At that time over half their body weight may consist of fat, providing them a head start on self-sufficiency. Sexual maturity occurs at between 3 and 7 years. Mature females mate shortly after the weaning of their pups; however, the embryo does not implant in the uterus until about 11 weeks later, a trait called delayed implantation. Active fetal development is about 8½ months.

The sex ratio of harbor seals at birth is approximately equal and remains so until about 5 years of age. Thereafter mortality rates for males are higher, and females become relatively more abundant. Maximum ages estimated from annual rings in their teeth are 26 years for a male and 32 years for a female.

Wild SealFood habits: In Alaska, commonly eaten prey include walleye, pollock, Pacific cod, capelin, eulachon, Pacific herring, salmon, octopus, and squid.

Abundance and trends: Harbor seals are a difficult species to census because they can be accurately counted only when they are hauled out. They haul out in thousands of locations in Alaska, and even if seals at all sites could be counted, the proportion of the total population hauled out at any given time is unknown. The total Alaska harbor seal population probably ranges between 200,000 and 300,000 animals. Since implementation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, hunting has been restricted to Alaska Natives. In some areas, harbor seals are an important part of the subsistence economy. The annual harbor seal harvest is about 2,500 to 4,000 animals.

The number of harbor seals has declined in several areas of the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound since the mid 1970s. At Tugidak Island near Kodiak, numbers have declined 90 percent from approximately 11,000 seals to 1,000. The reasons are unknown.

Fishery conflicts: The harbor seal's habit of damaging or removing salmon from gillnets is the major conflict between seals and commercial fishers in Alaska. This behavior creates economic losses for fishers and often fosters an antagonistic attitude toward seals. The Copper River Delta, the mouths of the Stikine and Taku rivers, and portions of Bristol Bay are areas with notable harbor seal-fishery conflicts. Sometimes seals are caught and killed or injured in fishing gear, primarily in gillnets and occasionally in crabpots.

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