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catherine attla Doz K’ikaal Yee Nogheełt’uyhdlee The One Who Used to Put His Nephew into a Fishtail In the time very long ago an uncle and his nephew were living together in summertime. Apparently it was Mink and the Raven, who was always Mink’s uncle [in stories]. Some of their relatives must have died. ‘‘We’re going to have a potlatch this coming winter,’’ they said. This is the reason people have memorial potlatches today. When people don’t have potlatches for their relatives, it’s said that their spirits stay around for a long time. People say that otherwise the spirits will linger on in a place and that’s the reason for having a potlatch. ‘‘Well, we’ll make a potlatch this winter and we’ll send a messenger to announce it,’’ they said – – it must have been Raven who said this, since he was the one who was always in charge. So now they put up a lot of fish. Their wives helped them put up a lot of fish. And late in the summer [Raven said], ‘‘Are we going to have only dry fish – – how about some meat?’’ he asked. This is the reason that the one with a black hide [the black bear]1 is so important at potlatches, it’s said. Planning on making a potlatch, they now took off by boat, paddling up the creek where the dog salmon had gone. catherine attla: one who put his nephew into a fishtail  ‘‘Nephew, I’m going to cut a dog salmon’s tail and put you in it but you’ll have your knife as a weapon,’’ he told him.2 ‘‘Okay,’’ he said to him. ‘‘There is no other way to catch one,’’ he [Raven] told him. There was no way for them to catch the black bear, because it was summer.3 So now he cut a dog salmon tail and put his nephew into it. He left it on a bear’s trail. ‘‘Uncle, if it looks like I won’t survive this thing, be sure and kill the bear,’’ he [Mink] told him,4 [meanwhile thinking to himself] ‘‘I’m going to kill him [if I don’t survive this].’’5 The tail was sitting on the bear’s trail while Mink waited inside it. All of a sudden, he heard a thumping noise approaching. Something [the bear] swallowed him. And he cut the inside of its belly until he had cut all the way through, and it dropped. Then he jumped out from inside its belly. And there was no one around. Where was the one who was supposed to help? ‘‘I was cooking6 inside the belly and where was he?’’ he said, he said this to his uncle.7 ‘‘Ha! Nephew, I got stuck among the trees when I was trying to get to you,’’ he replied, as he held a spear crossways between two trees and pretended to jerk on it. Actually, he had just been scared. So they had caught a bear and, after that, only his nephew would catch bears now and then; he [Raven] never caught a thing. They were also putting up grease in birch-bark baskets for the coming winter so they were putting up grease from very fat bears.8 ‘‘Nephew, running a line over the portage and letting the grease run through it and into the dish, is the best way,’’ he told him. ‘‘How are we going to do that?’’ he [Mink] asked.  Koyukon ‘‘What’s wrong with just pouring it into the container?’’ he [Mink] asked. ‘‘Ha! Nephew, what does he9 mean [trying to make shortcuts], the correct way to do it is to run a line over the portage,’’ he told him. They were also drying intestines. So they put some intestines end to end and ran them over the portage. (They were making it like a pipeline.) Now, ‘‘I’m going to stay down at the lower end of the portage and I’ll be pouring it [into the dish] there,’’ he [Raven] told him. He left then, taking a dish with him. And so he [Mink] was pouring a little more oil into the line than would fit in the dish he [Raven] had taken with him and he kept pouring more and more into it. Apparently, he [Raven] wanted to drink it but it was too hot. So by running it over the portage in a line, he could drink...


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