Tlingit and Haida People of Alaska: The Cloak People - P.O.W. Report

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Tlingit and Haida People of Alaska: The Cloak People


[Part 3]

Woody Morisson writes on the Tlingit and Haida Facebook Page

E. The Cloak People.

Soon Chaw-salii (the area of land covered by the tide) was so far from the land that we had to move our dwellings... Plants grew where there was once only ocean. It was during this time that another People, Gyaat'aat Xaat'aay (Cloak People), arrived from the north (Asia), moving slowly along "...this (west) side of the great mountains, gathering food as they traveled.
They stayed for some time and, with the permission of Haidas, built their village adjacent to X̱aadas 'Langáay (Haida Large Camps ).

F. It Got Cold.
It was also during this time that Gyaat'aat Xaat'aay (Cloak People) told of the coming of the Hard Cold and, we would need to prepare ourselves for it. The new-comers wore a covering over their shoulders and backs to protect themselves from the cold. This they taught us to make.
In exchange we taught the Cloak People to make the Tlúu Ínwaay (Half canoe) - the fore-runners to the dug-out canoes and twin-hull sailing canoes); Ocean-Walking-Platforms, "pulled by the Tide Lines".

Life for X̱aadas and the Cloak-People became more and more difficult; food was hard to get. The ocean moved farther and farther away from the Camps and, the people had to again move to be near the ocean.

The Guides (eldest of the elders) of the 'Langáay (large camp – before villages), talked it over and it was agreed, something was interfering with the Balance. They sent some men north to see if they could discover what was happening. They brought back word that where there once was ocean, was now dry land, the air was getting colder. The farther north they traveled, the stronger grew the cold, dry winds. The trees were gone, a tall, white (dry) grass was all that remained.
It was as the Cloak People told; the Hard Cold was coming. At first it was slow, we had a chance to get ready. Our People were still considering leaving to go south, to follow our long departed-relatives when we noticed that the "beach was coming back in" (ocean level was rising) and, that the winters were getting shorter.

H. It Got Warm.
Gradually life began to turn around. The atmosphere was once again warm; the rains came back and things started to grow.

I. People Moved Back North.
Those who had moved from the north end of the land, returned to their village sites. However, food was not as plentiful as before, some things cannot change quickly; some things change and cannot change back.

J. It Got Real Cold.

Life was good for a few generations, then, the Hard Cold began to again manifest its coming. The tide went out and did not come all the way back in. The rain came harder but didn't stay long, there was no snow. This time we were not too concerned because we thought that like everything else, this was just another cycle.

However, the Guides warned that this time the cold was "harder" and it might not return to the north as it had in the time of our ancestors. Yet, we remained where we were living at that time.
Sáahlagáast (wind from the sky) got stronger. It came straight down from Juuyáay (the sky). At first it was not so bad, there was hiilang (thunder) and T'aauu Gwáauugang (it was raining snow, i.e., hail), then they got stronger and colder until, when they would hit things and animals, those things froze solid when they were hit.

K. The Cloak People Departed.

The Cloak-People informed us that this time when the Hard Cold came it would remain for a long, long period. It was time for them to resume their journey for "...our destination awaits." The Cloak-People then loaded their belongings on the Tlúu Ínwaay (Half canoe), a low, flat dugout, roughly canoe-shaped and lashed together (which was the original design used by X̱aadas for making “Ocean-Walking-Platforms” - the fore-runners to the dug-out canoes) and, taking some Haidas with them, they departed to the South, following the curve of the (Main) Land.

Those of us who remained were not quick to agree that the Hard Cold was truly coming this time to stay for a long, long period. We continued our lives. However, the land provided less and less food for the big animals. It caused the large meat-eaters; Xuuts Iiwants (Giant brown bear) to come into the 'Langáay to catch People for their food.

J. Caribou.

It was at this time, they say, that the K'aat Íiwants (Caribou) came from the East. They were easy to catch; the meat was good, their skins were good for clothes and to cover our dwellings.
The Hard Cold came closer and closer until it was not possible to get entirely warm in the winter. We built our dwellings over holes in the ground. When it got colder we dug deeper holes in the ground for our dwellings and, like our ancestors, lined them like "nests" with white (dried) grass and branches. In winter they were below the ground and we were not so cold.

It was at this time, during the short summer, when the men went north to see what was causing the wind to run all the time. As with our ancestors, they found that the winds grew very strong and cold, this time they saw, in the distance, a black wall, the "hard cold", that reached to the sky. They could not get close to it because the wind was too strong, they say. It was what the Cloak People had foretold; the "Hard Cold".

During this time, the people lived in gin X̱iiltsas under the ground in caves... some vacated by Xuuts Iiwants - Giant brown bear, where it was not so cold. The People from the north end of the island told of Saatlagaast (wind from the sky that froze everything in its way; the wind that flattened the trees and killed other plants and froze big animals where they ate.

Everybody was scared; the ice was on two sides, there were mountains to the east and the ocean to the west; the winds were so ferocious that it was not possible to launch the Tlúu Ínwaay (Half canoe floating platforms). We were trapped. Then one woman told us, "If you folks follow me, I will show you how to get through the ice." She was called Kelg Jaat (Ice Woman).

To Be Continued

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