The Great Octopus of North Pass - P.O.W. Report

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Great Octopus of North Pass

Have I mentioned before that i'm a YUGE fan of Tlingit and Haida peoples of Alaska? [Check out their group.]

By Dr. Woodrow Ḵáawan Sangáa Morrison BA, JD
Here is another Dr. Robert Cogo Story.

Haida Stories and tales are not complete without an Núu (octopus) story. This is a story set in Sk’ayáang sahgwii (North Pass) at the ancient Haida Village Yáahl K’eiýk’ (Raven's Food - Crab Apple), near Hydaburg, Alaska.

At one time over a thousand Haidas lived there. This story is a Family story and has to do with Haida Ḵ’áygaang (mythology). I have a copy of gýaa’angáay (the totem or history standing straight up) about three feet tall which was carved by díi Ḵáa (my uncle), Saadúuts (John Wallace) of Hydaburg. I have a picture of this model totem, the original of which stood at Sk’ayáang sahgwii (North Pass), Yáahl K’aýk’ láanaa (Raven's Food Village) many, many years ago.

All Gaa xadláa (Haida children) were taught the strict adherence to the respect for nature and all the living creatures on Earth. You could not harm or torture anything alive without being paid back in kind. Many things were G̱anaa (taboo) i.e, don’t do that, it will come back on you. Parents were very strict, seeing to it that Gaa xadláay (the children) did not break the rules. Any misfortune occurring within the group was attributed to a violation of g̱anaa (taboo) and was viewed by the people as tlat’íis (punishment).


Awáahl G̱aagwíi (Long, long ago) many generations of Haidas lived at Sk’ayáang sahgwii (North Pass). Yáahl (Raven) and Xúuts (Brown Bear) Clans were prominent there as was the Eagle Clan. Everything was in Balance (peace and harmony).

There came a time when a Yáahl Jáadaa (Raven woman) left the village on a canoe to gather roots. Time passed and she did not return. A search party found only her empty canoe amongst the G̱aw (inlets) across the narrow channel from of the ’láanaa (villages).

At that time SG̱áagaay (the Spirit Man) perceived that she had been taken into the núu (octopus) underwater village and, therefore, was living there and unable to get back to her village. This myth then became a Raven Clan myth. It was accepted as such and the Clan members’ sorrow was erased.
As time went on a group of G̱aa xadláa (children) were playing on the cháawsalíi (beach). One of the boys spotted a small núu giit’íi (baby octopus) swimming along the táajaa (sand beach). It was struggling to gain the protection of the ḵwaa (rocks).

During the previous night the baby octopus had taken on human form and had visited its grandparents, but not knowing what it was they paid no attention to it. Some of the children playing on the beach had long sḵ’áangw (sticks). They were poking around. Seeing the núu giit’íi (small octopus) gave them the chance to have fun.

They forgot all the instructions of their parents. The forgot about things g̱anaa (taboo). They started to flip the small octopus up onto the táajaa (sand beach) The small octopus was struggling to get back into the chaansíi (sea water). It finally escaped and made it back to the núu (octopus) tlagáay (world). What was not known is that the small octopus was a child of the Raven woman. In the núu ’láanaa (octopus village) under the sea, there was trouble. The treatment given to the small octopus became the issue. The núu X̱áat’aay (octopus people) demanded restitution and payment for the wrong done to their g̱aa xadláa (child).

Núu X̱áat’aay (the octopus people) made preparations for an attack on the Haida Village. This is where SG̱áagaay (the Spirit Man) comes into the picture. He told of what the children had done. Also in a dream he had seen the Raven Woman trying to warn her people.

He told of the coming attack on the village. The attack would be on Raven Clan and their house - Xúuts Naay (Brown Bear House). It was their children who caused the gúusuuwaa (trouble). The Eagles were not to be bothered. This Ts̱áak’ (Eagle) Clan had the Hlk’yáan Ḵ’ust’áan (Frog) for their crest. They were a Clan of great hunters and carvers.

The Raven Íitl’aakdaas (Chief) ordered his Clan to make ready for defense. He would not consider the wáahlaal gínang (restitution demands) of the Octopus People. SG̱áagaa (Spirit Man) told them what to do and what to expect. All the seams and cracks in the walls were caulked. A retainer was put over the smoke hole. The attack would come at sángyaa (night).

The attack came as expected. A great army of Octopi came creeping up all over the beach and up and over the Chief’s house. They would suffocate the Chief and his household. Towards morning the Octopus People could not carry on the attack much longer and, they had to retreat back into the bay and sea water. They could not stay out of the salt water for long.

The Octopus attack had failed and the Chief and his house were saved.

This is the end of the story (Tláan gyáahlangáay g̱eídang).

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