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catherine attla Dekeltlaal De’ot Etldleeyee The Woodpecker Who Starved His Wife In the time very long ago, people had stayed at their individual spring camps during breakup. That spring they all gathered together and were traveling together. They must have been traveling downstream to the mouth of the river. The people all gathered together and celebrated. A man had given a woman a wooden comb as a memento, without her husband’s knowledge. The summer passed. People had stayed in fish camps, and they put away a lot of fish. At that time a man looked through his wife’s things. To his surprise he found a tlughulee’oye, a wooden comb that had been given to her. The comb was made of wood; that is what he found. Apparently this husband was very jealous. He asked her, ‘‘Where did this come from?’’ ‘‘I don’t know,’’ she kept saying, but he had discovered her secret. Evidently it had been given to her during the previous spring, when people were gathered together, and she had kept it hidden. All during the fall and winter he scolded her over and over again. catherine attla: the woodpecker who starved his wife  It was now late winter. He scolded her the entire winter because of that wooden comb. They went on a nomadic hunt, traveling around. He did not feed her anymore, not since the beginning of their nomadic hunt. They did not have any children, only a dog. The dog pulled a sled with her. It pulled the sled for this woman. The man walked ahead of his wife. They camped here and there. The dog was fed by its master.1 It would hide some of its food. It had found out that its mistress was not eating and began to give her food that it hid. When they camped, their sleeping places were made on both sides of the campfire; a fire burned in the center. He did not keep her by his side because he was afraid she would steal some food. She stayed on the other side of the fire, where there was nothing. The dog often gave its mistress food. The man found out about it and began feeding the dog very little as well. He would cook a whole skewer of spruce grouse over the fire. She would watch him. Again and again he would say, ‘‘Mother of Seey’e, bite off a piece of your wooden comb. How can you be hungry when you have that?’’ It was the dog that was called Seey’e.2 So he called her only ‘‘Mother of Seey’e.’’ Apparently he resented the fact that she had been given a memento. He said this again and again to taunt her. It got to the point where the dog could not give its mistress any more food. The winter was ending.  Koyukon The man was pulling around a big load of food on the sled, but there was no way she could touch it. One time the dog was pulling the sled for her. She was walking behind, following her husband. While traveling across a lake, the dog began to sniff its way back toward the woods. It kept going to the edge of the lake. ‘‘Why is it doing that?’’ she wondered. While the dog stayed at the sled, she went to the shore and walked into the brush. To her surprise, a bear’s den was there. Apparently a bear was in it. She went back out onto the lake. I don’t think she blocked the entrance to the den. She went back down the bank to the dog. She resumed following her husband. Then her husband prepared camp again. As usual, he prepared a place for her across the campfire from himself. There she sat, facing the fire. He had a whole skewer of spruce hens roasting over the fire. Really! He was eating all those broiled spruce hens. He said, ‘‘Mother of Seey’e, what do you lack that makes you hungry? Why should you be hungry? Take a bite of the wooden comb.’’ She was looking at the dog, and it kept nodding its head with sleep. It must have been hungry itself. Then she said, ‘‘Hey! Is that the same one that kept dragging me off the trail today that is nodding its head with sleep?’’ ‘‘What? What are you saying, Mother of Seey’e? What are you saying?’’ he started asking...


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