Teaching Unit for Primary Grades K-3
By Claribel and Henry Davis
Some word development to make story more meaningful. Possible words to be studied:
Killerwhale, island, shore, yellow cedar, dorsal fin, canoe, beach, sea, ocean, legend, crest, totem pole
(Pictures which relate to word development may be used in Tlingit language development later.)
Tlingit men would very often hunt on nearby islands where no people lived. Since an island is surrounded by water, hunting was usually better there. Long ago the only transportation to the island was by canoe. They had no ferries, cruisers, or any boats with motors. They had to travel by paddling their canoes. Even when they travelled long distances on open water or ocean they had only paddles for power. In the story Naatsilanei went seal hunting with his wife's brothers. They looked for seals on the beach or shore. It was easier to get seals from the beach than from the sea. Naatsilanei carved pieces of wood and they looked like some sea animal. But the only one that could swim was the yellow cedar. Different kinds of tree woods are heavier or lighter in weight. So Naatsilanei had to carve until he found just the right kind of wood which could swim properly. Tlingits believed that they could make something come to life by calling the spirits. This legend is a story which is very very old. Tlingit grandfathers told it to their grandchild many, many years ago, as I am telling you today. Tlingit people who belonged to this family still use the crest1 of killerwhale.
They use it to decorate canoes, jewelry, blandest, dancing shirts,3,4
hats and helmets used for dancing. Long ago they also used the crest5,6
as a house decoration by painting it on the walls or making house totems
using the killerwhales. The totem poles told other people what family7
they belonged to. Today we can see totem poles with the killerwhale
in Sitka and Klawock8, Ketchikan,
Saxman. It is considered a symbol of intelligence and wealth. The design
is used to decorate blankets and shirts which Tlingit dancers wear.
Tlingits like to use it to decorate moccasins, jewelry, or for a wall
design. You can be sure it is a killerwhale if you see the dorsal fin9,10
and large pointed teeth.