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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Story Of The Puffin
from "Tlingit Myths and Texts" by John R. Swanton
There is a place called GânAxa' and a creek close by called GânAXa'hîn whither many people used to go to dry salmon and do other work. One day some women went out from there at low tide to a neighboring island to dig shellfish. They brought their canoe to a place where there was a hole in the side of the island, but, when they endeavored to land, a breaker came in, upset the canoe, and drowned all of them except one. In former times, when this woman went by in her father's canoe, she used to think the birds here looked pretty and was in the habit of saying, "I wish I could sit among those birds." These birds were the ones that saved her. They felt so happy at having gotten her that they flew about all the time.

Meanwhile drums were beaten at the town to call people to the death feast, for they thought that she was drowned.

One time a canoe from the village containing her father happened to pass this place, and they said to him, "Look among those birds. Your daughter is sitting there."

Tufted Puffin

The puffin chief had ordered the lAgwâ'tc!, a bird which lives on the outer islands and is the puffin's slave, to braid the woman's hair, and she always sat on the edge of the cliff.

Her father was very rich, so he filled many canoes with sea-otter, beaver, and marten skins for the birds to settle on when they flew out. When they reached the place, however, he could not see his daughter, for they had taken her inside. Then he became angry. They carried all sorts of things out there but in vain.

At last, about four days afterward, the girl's mother thought of the white hair that had belonged to her grandfather. In the morning she said to her husband, "We have that old hair in a box. What can we do with it? We ought to try a strategem with it. Suppose we put boards on the canoes, spread the hair all over them, and take it out." They did this, and, when they got to the cliff where their daughter used to be, they saw her sitting on the edge with her hair hanging over. They went close in. Then all the birds flew out to them, and each stuck a white hair in its head where you may see it at this day. The girl, however, remained where she was.

Then these birds flew in to the puffin chief and told him about the hair. They thought a great deal of it. Therefore the chief told them to carry the girl back to her father. But before she went he said to her, "If you are ever tired of staying with your father, come back to us." At that time she had a nose just like one of these birds, because she had wanted to be one of them.

The sea gull is also the slave of the puffin. Therefore the Huna people say that when anyone goes to that place it calls his name, because it was the slave of the puffin at the time when this woman was there.

Because some of their people were drowned at that island, all of the T!A'q!dentân claim it. Later they built a house which they named after it.

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