Kalitan, Our Little Alaskan Cousin eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 77 pages of information about Kalitan, Our Little Alaskan Cousin.

“Now Zampa’s father had found his boy’s body and mourned over it, and buried it in a mighty cave, the which he had once made for his furs and stores.  With it he placed bows and arrows and many valuables in respect for the dead.  And Zampa’s sister, going to his funeral feast, fell upon a stone with her child, so that both were killed.  Then broke the old chief’s heart.  Beside her brother he laid her in the cave, and gave orders that he himself should be placed there as well, when grief should have made way with him.  Then he died of sorrow for his children, and his people interred him in his burial cave, and with him they put much wealth and blankets and weapons.

“When, therefore, the people of his tribe found the bodies of Kitt-a-youx and her child among the kelp, having heard of her love for Zampa, they bore them to the same cave, and, wrapping them in furs, they placed Kitt-a-youx beside her beloved husband, and in her burial she found her home and felt the kindness of the Great Spirit.  This, then, is the story of the burial cave of Kagamil, and since that day no man dwelt upon the island, and it is known as the ‘island of the dead.’”

“I’d like to see it, I can tell you,” said Ted.  “Are there any burial caves around here?”

“The Thlinkits do not bury in caves,” said Tanana.  “We used to burn our dead, but often we place them in totem-poles.”

“I thought those great poles by your doors were totems,” said Ted, puzzled.

“Yes,” said the girl.  “They are caste totems, and all who are of any rank have them.  As we belong to the Raven, or Bear, or Eagle clan, we have the carved poles to show our rank, but the totem of the dead is quite different.  It does not stand beside the door, but far away.  It is alone, as the soul of the dead in whose honour it is made.  It is but little carved.  A square hole is cut at the back of the pole, and the body of the dead, wrapped in a matting of cedar bark, is placed within, a board being nailed so that the body will not fall to the ground.  A potlatch is given, and food from the feast is put in the fire for the dead person.”

“It seems queer to put weapons and blankets and things to eat on people’s graves,” said Ted.  “Why do they do it?”

“Of the dead we know nothing,” said Tanana, “Perhaps the warrior spirit wishes his arrows in the Land of the Great Unknown.”

“Yes, but he can’t come back for them,” persisted Ted.

“At Wrangel, Boston man put flowers on his girl’s grave,” said Kalitan, drily.  “She come back and smell posy?”

Having no answer ready, Ted changed the subject and asked: 

“Why do you have the raven at the top of your totem pole?”

“Indian cannot marry same totem,” said Kalitan.  “My father was eagle totem, my mother was raven totem.  He carve her totem at the top of the pole, then his totem and those of the family are carved below.  The greater the family the taller the totem.”

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Kalitan, Our Little Alaskan Cousin from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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