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As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder

Mink and Whale

I will tell another one about a whale: qɑyχ and Whale. When we were children, we were always told by the old people, “Respect things around you. Every living thing has life. The sea creatures, the whales, the salmon. Don’t make fun of them. Don’t think bad things of them, because they can read your mind. They can see. They can read you.” So if you make fun of them, something will happen to you. So one day, qɑyχ is out there for a change. He’s out searching for food. He’s all by himself. He’s jiggin’ out there – sittin’ in his boat and he’s jiggin’ away for cod. And it’s a beautiful day. It’s so hot! The waters are so calm. And he’s not getting a nibble at all, no bite. And he’d been there a long time. Nothing! So he sees a whale surface from the great distance. He sees this sparkle in the water, some movement over there. Then he’d see it again. And he recognizes it as a whale: “Oh, that’s a whale.” And he’s getting irritated by this point that he’s not getting any cod or anything at all. So he gets mad at the Whale. He says, “Oh, Whale! You’d think you’d come over here and bite my line, you shiny-headed so-and-so.” So he done that a couple of times, name-calling that Whale. Pretty soon that Whale surfaces, a lot closer. And he just ignores it and he’s getting a little nervous. The next thing you know, the Whale surfaced right near his boat. Now he’s getting nervous. Then the Whale surfaced again with its mouth wide open. And here he is in his small little boat, jiggin’ away. And the Whale sucks him up with its big mouth, pulls the whole boat in with qɑyχ in that boat. Swallows it! Boat and all. So he ends up in the belly of the Whale. Totally dark in there and it’s really hot. And he’s still sittin’ in his boat. And he feels something hitting him on the head, or his face. Something would hit him. He doesn’t know what this is. So he reaches around for a sharp object, his knife, takes it and he grabs this thing and he cuts it off. And here it is, the heart. So the Whale dies. And qɑyχ is still there. And the Whale drifts ashore – gets drifted onto the beach. And men seen this Whale, dead Whale on the beach, and they said, “Oh my goodness! Look at that whale.” All the men ran down there and they slit the Whale open, ’cause it’s partly in the water still. And all the guts and everything spilled out of the Whale, including qɑyχ’s boat and qɑyχ still in it. qɑyχ ended up in the water and he’s bald. He’s totally bald, because he’d been in the Whale’s belly, and it’s so hot in the belly. So he snuck away. He didn’t want anyone to see him. He was embarrassed. He was embarrassed to be bald. So he snuck away, swam away, and ends up on the beach, and he slithers off and goes to hide. So the moral of that story is that you don’t make fun of things. You don’t make fun of people. This is what happens. See what happened to qɑyχ. He was making fun of the Whale and calling it, “You shiny-headed, baldheaded Whale.” So this is what happened to qɑyχ. He was swallowed by the Whale, ’cause the Whale read his mind. So be careful what you say. Be careful how you treat the animals, and anything, sea life, anything around you. So that’s that story around that, around the Whale.

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