K’UL K’ALUUDAAY by Moldy Collars - P.O.W. Report

Sunday, May 19, 2019

K’UL K’ALUUDAAY by Moldy Collars

Tlingit and Haida people of Alaska has great stories and history and you [should follow it here]

Part 1:

This wi
ll be posted in two parts - the Foreword contains cultural information one should know when learning X̱aat' Kil. The Second Part is the story.

By Moldy Salmon Collars
Ḵáawan Sangáa (Brings-a-Special-Day)

Although a lot of Haida History, and the lessons learned from it, were carved on poles, screens, hooks and, tattooed on individuals, the primary medium for passing knowledge was and remains “organic”. Knowledge passed from individual to individuals, and groups, orally, i.e., the organic transfer of knowledge.

Most often the sessions were informal, late Fall and Winter storytelling sessions while others were formal and reserved to select individuals. However, a major part of these sessions was teaching not only the specifics of the culture but teaching the listeners to be observant, i.e., another way of “seeing”.

Learning to see not only what is supposed to be there or what is not supposed to be there but, to also “see” what is missing. When you look straight ahead, your view of the world is very narrow: learn to use your peripheral vision and see a very wide view of the world. It is one of the functions of “seeing” stories.

However, “storytelling” is more than simply relating facts, data, ideas, feelings, etc., it is a very complex way of “experiencing” both the tangible and intangible parts of the Universe. One of my teachers, when I was about 20 years old, said to me, “When you can see the power that is the wind, you will understand what is true and correct.” Over the years I have been able to catch faint glimmerings of what he meant but it wasn’t until a full 50 years later I finally realized the import of those words.

It is a part of the process of “getting your own song”. The “song” is not necessarily a tune or a lyric or the two combined. It is the ability to see the rhythm of life around you, which enables you to fit yourself comfortably into, and to become in harmony with that Life Rhythm. It cannot be described, it must be perceived.

The Old Ones also told me that there is no “line” that separates the “physical” world from the “metaphysical” world, it is “...your ability to see it.” He then explained, when you seek to see below the surface, down into the depths of the water and all you see is your own reflection, you have to “Gúudangáay stíihldaang”, change your point of view, your world perception. Then not only will you be able to peer down into the depths of the water, but you become that water. A Clue.

“The drum can make lots of noise but without a song to give it life that is all it is... noise. That is the difference between a “Strong Man” and a “Tough guy”. Water always travels with a song... if you are to become a man you have to have your own song... you have to split the fern with your thumbnail and peel it down to knee height... all the plants are your grandmothers. A Clue.

The “highest” Power exists nowhere and in nothing and brought into Light (that which is everywhere) and in everything, including every fiber of my Being. When the Drum starts, the People begin to Move. A Clue.

I had to let go of notions of reality that I had learned in the “Western” world and re-immerse myself into the Haida World in which I was born and trained. I had to be able to see beyond the obvious.
The specific techniques involved a view of “time” that is not consistent with that of the non-indigenous world. In short, the “past” is in front of me while the “future” is behind me, I cannot see it. It is like I am sitting in a river and time flows from behind me and, when something comes into view I have to deal with it right at that moment because it will never be there again. This view gives a very different worldview.

As earlier stated, one of the primary functions of “storytelling” was to pass on the specifics of the culture so, the teller holds an absolute responsibility to pass on those details accurately.
And, unlike Aesops Tales, there is no “moral” to the Haida stories... the Story is the Message. One views the entire message and uses it as a guide to life, S’ahljúugahl ’láanaa Yáagudáang (Drawing a Straight Line to the highest Values of the Population, or, Social Control by obligation and negotiation). (TO BE CONTINUED)

Part 2

The Story:

This story took place on the east coast of Prince of Wales Island in Southeastern Alaska near the village of Guskúu (the place where everything starts out from) – today it is called “Kasaan”. On the maps the specific location is called “Carta River”, a major Sockeye-producing stream.

"Ja!", she addressed her husband, telling him to come and see what the cause was. Examining and probing the fish, they discovered a sharpening stone embedded that had belonged to their lost boy. (Men and boys always carried sharpening stones around their necks on thongs. Keeping knives and spears sharp were very important in the olden days).


By Moldy Salmon Collars

Realization dawned on them that their boy must have been lured off and turned into a Sockeye for reasons unknown to them. (Haidas greatly feared offending animals, birds and fish. Taboos were strongly observed by social custom).

The camp SG̱áagaa (Spirit Guide) being regarded as one held in high esteem and feared was consulted. After his ritual and getting into a trance, he came to and told the parents to place the fish under the corner eve of their dwelling and let the rain drip on it all night.

The father took the fish and laid it on the ground with great care where the rain drips fell. By early morning the fish skin had fallen off and the boy regained his normal body.

In due time passing adolescence, he became a powerful SG̱áagaa and a great credit to his people. He told of many adventures, experiences, new methods learned to make living easier. Some serious and some rather humorous.

The following always brought laughter to the people. Women sitting down on the beach to cut fish always faced the water. The Shaman told the women to change position while cutting fish as facing out made the fish people laugh and that was when a school of fish broke water. Since then, women never sit facing the water while cutting and cleaning fish on the beach. They learned to sit sideways.
Nearing old age, the SG̱áagaa went to the Sockeye stream with the rest of the camp men and boys to watch them spear fish. They noticed a transparent like Sockeye swimming amongst the fish. All the men and boys commenced to aim at the peculiar looking fish. None could hit to spear.

The SG̱áagaa watched for awhile and then asked a bystander for a spear, taking careful aim he threw and speared the fish. As he struck it he gave a loud groan and fell to the ground. He knew the transparent fish was his spirit but he speared it regardless.

He told the men to carry him and the reason for his dying. He requested that his remains be placed on a bier, his drums and rattles he used in life during his performances to cure the sick or direct the fishing, hunting and warfare with other tribes.

Further up the Sockeye stream there was a big rock and at the base a deep dark pool referred to as the "Gii Laii". This spot he designated his resting place. From time to time he said his drum would be heard as a warning of coming disaster, war raids or plagues. His wishes were carried out, after all preparations were finished, the whole camp proceeded up stream with his remains.

At the end of a big customary service of tributes befitting the great SG̱áagaa, the bier was lowered into the pool. Slowly the bier swayed back and forth in the pool with the long tangled hair streaming in the water. (A lot of power was supposedly vested in the tangled hair of a SG̱áagaa, hence a SG̱áagaa never combed his hair).

Slowly the bier disappeared out of sight before the people went back to their dwellings.
Through the passing years sometimes the deep throbbing sound of a drum would boom from the direction of the deep pool, causing a deep fear and alertness to be prepared to face whatever was to come upon them.

*Lesson derived from this story was to teach children never to waste food and to eat what is prepared and placed before them, especially in company.

A guest always ate everything put before him out of respect to a host, showing good manners. Ah! as the saying goes among Haidas, you can tell he comes from a high caste family by the words that come out of his mouth and respectfully manners.

Told by Helen Sanderson to Virginia Morrison--Feb. 12, 1973.
Áaw tláan gyaahlangáay láa g̱íidang.

That is all there is to the story.

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