The Tale of the coming of humankind
Only a tiny fragment of this tale survives, a brief outline with little detail. Woodford- Harding collected it from a seafaring people he stayed with very briefly, most likely in 1904, but he recorded almost no information about the tribe itself, thus it is difficult to determine who exactly they were or even their exact location, though it is believed they were most likely people living along the coast of the Bering Sea in far Eastern Siberia. Unlike modern western perceptions of killer whales (also known as 'Orca'), this tribe clearly thought very highly of them and considered them to be the ancestors of their people.
Two spirits eloped together, for the laws of their tribe forbade them to marry. To escape they turned themselves into fish and swam down river to the sea. There a Killer Whale came upon them. She was hungry but she could see they were spirits disguised as fish, so she said to them, “I am hungry. If you will give me the fish bodies you wear, I will hide you from your families.” So the fish swam into her mouth, and she swam far away from their angry tribe. And in her belly, the two spirits took off their fish bodies as they had promised. But they were afraid they would be found again and punished for breaking the law. So they stayed in the belly of the Killer Whale. And in the spring, she gave birth to a woman and a man, and they became the mother and the father of the first people.
All text and images © Christina Cairns 2011