Alaska: Origin of the Killer Whale Crest

This story is part of the Alaskan Legends unit. Story source: Myths and Legends of Alaska, edited by Katharine Berry Judson (1911).

Origin of the Killer Whale Crest


LONG time ago there was a man named Natsiane who always quarrelled with his wife. One day his brothers-in-law took him to an island far out at sea and left him there.

Natsiane began to think, "What can I do?" As he sat there thinking, he whittled two killer whales out of cottonwood bark. He put them into the water and shouted as the shamans do. They looked as if they were swimming but when they came to the surface, they were only cottonwood bark.

Natsiane made two more whales out of alder. He tried to put the spirit of his clan into them. As he put them in the water, he whistled four times like a spirit, "Whu, whu, whu, whu." When they floated to the surface they were only alder wood.

Then he tried hemlock, then red cedar. Afterward he tried yellow cedar. These whales swam right away like large killer whales. They swam out a long distance. When they came back they turned into wood.

Then Natsiane made holes in their dorsal fins, seized one of them with each hand, and let the killer whales tow him out to sea. He said to them, "If you see my brothers-in-law in canoes, you are to upset them."

After the whales had towed Natsiane to sea for some distance, they returned to the island. They became wood again. The next time Natsiane saw his brothers-in-law in their canoes, he put the spirit of his clan into the killer whales. Then they overturned the canoes and broke them to bits. They killed the people in them.

After that Natsiane said to his killer whales, "You are not to injure people again. You must be kind to them." So these two killer whales became the canoes of the spirits. Shamans are lucky if they can get the spirit canoes.

It is through this story that the Daqlawe clan have the killer whale crest.

(300 words)

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