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"Around-the-Lake-People" (mankaditliadaxon'iyu)

This version of the legend comes from Birket-Smith and de Laguna's 1928 collection The Eyak Indians of the Copper River Delta, Alaska. The storyteller was identified as Galushia Nelson.

Dwarfs as big as a thumb used to hunt and fish around the country. They were found around Strawberry Point (on Hinchinbrook Island, near Boswell Bay) at the small lake there. The little women row; the little man hunt and fish. A human captured a little man who had become tangled in some roots. The dwarf gave the man all his hunting outfit- spears and bow and arrows-to let him go. One spear with an agate point he hated to part with.

When he was turned loose, he returned home, but his people had gone outside the breakers. He hollered for them to come back and get him. One of his relatives came through the breakers for him. They all started home in canoes and on the way they saw a mouse, which was a brown bear to them. They all landed to try and kill him.

The little man without hunting implements was killed by the bear, for he had no way to defend himself. The other people killed the bear. The bear was cut up in small pieces and left there because he had killed one of their people.

They put the body of the dead man in a canoe without examining it at all. His relatives took the body home. The wife ran down to meet her husband; she didn't know he was dead. The skin of his head had been pulled off. The wife and children ran down to meet him. They were happy that their man was coming home.

The wife, when she saw her husband's head, tore a piece from the bottom of her skirt and bandaged his head. They took the body and placed it in front of the left front house-post. They left the body outside for eight days. On the eighth day they took the body inside.

Towards noon the body began to move. Only the wife was there. Right at noon he moved more and more until he lifted his head. He sat up and scratched his head. He asked his wife what had happened and she told him that a bear had killed him. He asked what they had done with the bear. She said they had killed it, cut it in bits, and left it there. He asked who had brought his body home.

He told his wife not to worry about him, and left, taking two men with him. They went to Yakutatik. They were gone about a year. They came back at the time when the birds start to lay eggs. When the people saw them coming they were excited. Each man was coming in a separate canoe and all three were full of brown-bear skins. When they landed the people lifted them up and carried them to the house. The man was made chief of the tribe.

When they had finished eating, he said to his wife: "I guess I got even with those bears."

He gave his oldest daughter to a man. She knew everything-all about making baskets and keeping house. She had already promised to marry another man, but she had to obey her father and left the first man. The first man asked her husband to dig clams with him. They were digging as the tide was coming in. He made the husband stay on a sand spit. He was drowned there and they never found the body. He turned into a shrimp or sand-hopper.

The other man went home and told several different stories about what had happened. The drowned man's wife had a dream that the man had caused her husband to be drowned by the tide and in the dream, her husband told her he had become a sand-hopper. People asked the man if that was true. He said yes. But they did nothing to him.

These dwarfs had many different tribes around the lake, like the different tribes of Indians.

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Learn more about:

 Native American dwarves
 Eyak language
 Eyak legends
 Native tribes of Alaska



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