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Tlingit Conversation #21
Ḵuwduwatlágu yé.
The place that has been told of.
Speaker is Ḵaakáak’w Cyril George with Kathy Ruddy, Ḵaagwáaskʼ Ishmael Hope and Dzeiwsh James Crippen. Recorded July 8, 2010, by Naakil.aan Mark Hans Chester at Cyril George's residence in Juneau, Alaska.
This material is based on work supported by National Science Foundation grant 0853788 to the University of Alaska Southeast with Ljáaḵkʼ Alice Taff as Principal Investigator, and by National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship 266286-19 to Ljáaḵkʼ Alice Taff. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or National Endowment for the Humanities.
Tlingit transcription by Jóoteen Jessica Isturis. English translation by Shakʼsháani Margaret Dutson with Ljáaḵkʼ Alice Taff. Edited by X̱ʼaagi Sháawu Keri Edwards with Ḵaachkoo.aaḵw Helen Sarabia, also by Shag̱aaw Éesh Devlin Anderstrom.
SYMBOLS: {false start}, (added for clarity), [translator/transcriber's note]. ??? = can’t understand, «Lingít quotation marks» Time-aligned text entry was accomplished using the software, ELAN (Versions 6.0 (2020) and 6.1 (2021)). Nijmegen: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, The Language Archive. Retrieved from
To the people that, that were listening to him, what he meant was,
"At last, Iʼve seen heaven,
where my roots originate.
Haa shagóon.
Our ancestral history.
I told them, "That's the way I feel as I stand here today in front of you people." Boy, I knew I had them.
To my way of thinking that was about the prettiest little speech I ever heard, by, my little buddy here, just a little bit older than me. He was from Hoonah. Richard Sheakley, heʼs gone now. I got to know him when we were little guys. I got on a boat when I was eight years old so I spent a lot of time in Hoonah summertime. Got to know all these, I got invited to the parties in Hoonah. When I, when I got over there for, for the parties all the Ravens, "Hey, go on, go on, sit by us," you know. This one time they, we got invited. Weʼre sitting there. Richard got up. What he said is,
Yeisú tatgé áyá
It was just yesterday
x̱'at'aaḵdáx̱ at x̱alatín.
I was watching from the front of the house by the door.
Yadak'átsk'ux̱ x̱at sitée.
I was a little boy.
I was a boy.
Haa káak hás
Our maternal uncles
yee {daaxʼ} daag̱áa yoo has x̱'ali.átk.
were talking for you folksʼ benefit.
Wooch yáa awoodané.
Mutual respect.
Wooch isx̱án.
Mutual love.
Haa kaaniyán.
Our brothers-in-law.
Yeedát áwé x̱át,
Right now, me,
yan kawátx̱ x̱at sitee.
I am an elderly person.
Át x̱at x̱'ayawji.áak.
I am fumbling my words.
You know what that means, át yawji.áak?
You know what that means, heʼs staggering around?
When a fish gets wounded. Thatʼs what he likened his speech to. Now that youʼre standing in front of our brother-in-laws. Richard, heʼs gone. They, um, I ah, I worked on the words to the Lordʼs Prayer. You want to start with that?
Whatʼs that?
Wait a minute.
Iʼve got it. Iʼve got it. I uh, I had a model to go by. The Russian church has one but some of the words they put in there were put in there to go with the musics. Some of those I eliminated and just made a straight prayer. I gave it, I gave it to Walter Soboleff to... I told him, "You can mark it up." He came over and gave it back to me, "This is good." He liked it. OK.
Haa Éesh, Dikée Aanḵáawu,
Our Father, the Lord Above,
gax̱lasaayí i saayí.
may your name be glorified.
Haat g̱agoot haa tl'átgi kaadé.
Let him come onto our land.
Ḵúnáx̱ i aayí a yáx̱ ḵug̱aax̱toostee yá diyéex' chʼa wé dikée yáx̱.
May we live as your own here below, just as above.
Haa jeet tí yáa yakyee
Give us this day
ḵustí sakwnéin.
the bread of life.
Ch'a aadéi yéi na.oo haa l.ushk'eiyí
Forgive our evil
wáa sá uháanch ch'a aadé yéi too.úx̱x' g̱unaḵáa l.ushkʼeiyí.
as we ourselves forgive the evil of other people.
Haa dakán shunagú
Lead it away from us
daa sá haa koo.aag̱ú
whatever tempts us
ḵa haa x̱saneix̱
and save us
Diyée Aanḵáawu jeedáx̱.
from the Lord Below.
{i} L.ulitoogu i saayí tóonáx̱ yéi ng̱atee.
Let be done in Your Pure Name.
Amen. I, uh, I tell some people now, uh, I went to Seattle for their celebration over a year ago. They asked me to pray. It was a Tlingit and Haida and Tsimshian celebration. When I got up I told them, "To be in keeping with, with this get together," I told them, "Iʼm going to pray in Tlingit." There are some words that really touch me when I, because of the way the words came about. Like when weʼre, like when weʼre asking for something.
You say, «toosg̱áax̱.»
You say, “We beg.”
This is my thoughts, Iʼve never heard anybody else. Itʼs crying. A baby when it wants anything, wants it so bad you know, it cry for it. So when weʼre praying we say toosg̱áax̱. Weʼre asking. The, uh, Tlingits, sometime... Just sitting here sometime I think about some of the... Did you know Tlingits can only count to five?
From there we can go to thousands. You ever hear that?
How come?
I donʼt know.
Tlél haa een kawduneek shákdé.
They didn't tell us, maybe.
Thereʼs only, we only count to five.
one hand.
When you start with six,
tléixʼt uwashóo,
It has extended to one.
seven, déix̱t uwashóo,
7, it has extended to two.
Itʼs running to two. And it keeps going,
When youʼre about to accomplish whatever youʼre doing, you kinda smile to yourself, when you get to four, to nine you say,
Your thumb is smiling. At nine, see? And when you hit ten, you say,
Thatʼs jinkaat.
Then you go from there,
jinkaat ḵa tléix', jinkaat ḵa déix̱.
11, 12
And when you get to 20 you say,
20, one man
One man. I donʼt know why Iʼm telling you my secrets. Hands and feet.
Do you have stuff you want to ask him, or
Wáa sá iduwasáakw?
What are you called?
Have him tell us his names. Tell him what are his names?
Aadóo sáwé wa.é?
Who are you?
When I was born I was given the name Ḵaalkáawu. I was born in Hood Bay. There was a little saltery. The main cannery is right here, and where the, uh, killer whale tribe originated on this side the bay back in here. They owned that, Daḵlʼaweidí. I was born in that saltery. The, uh, my dad was fishing herrings. Saltery, it was called that cause they did fancy pack in trays. They, they gutted the herring, took it, cleaned it, then it was salted. Called the saltery. Thatʼs where I was born. I was born 1922. I, my name comes from William Peters. You ever hear that name? Old man William Peters. His name was Ḵalḵáawu. I was never told why, but my mom told me when I was born he had a seine boat and was living in Sitka. He came all the way from Sitka to saltery. He came to my mom. He said,
«Ḵáak'w ák.wé?»
“Is it a little boy?”
She said, «Aaá.»
She said, “Yes.”
«Ax̱ tuwáx' sigóo ax̱ saayí du yáx' yéi wuteeyí.
“I want my name to be on his face.
Ch'a aan ḵaa waḵshiyéex' kei nax̱dahánch.»
Let him always stand in front of the people with it.”
Even back in 1922 they already knew our way of life was drifting away from us.
«Haa jináḵ yaa nalhásh,» they used to say.
“It's drifting away from us,” they used to say.
«Chʼa aan ḵaa waḵshiyeexʼ kei nax̱dahánch.»
“Let him always stand in front of the people with it.”
Ax̱ saayí.
My name.
It wasnʼt until just recently I found out the reason why he did that.
My mom's name was Heex'wé.
His mom's name was Heexʼwé.
So he gave me that name. Some of the things that happened. Then we lived at Kilisnoo. I lived in Kilisnoo until 1928. Thatʼs when Kilisnoo burned, the fire. At that time in 1928 it was the largest herring plant in the world. We were rendering oil and we were making fertilizer also. There was a lot of history in Kilisnoo. In 1882 it was a whaling station, Kilisnoo. Our, our shaman got killed. It was an accident. They, um, he was on a gun boat right in the bow where the harpoon is. That gun exploded. Killed our shaman. One thing the a, white people didnʼt understand that was, a good shaman he has the same standing as a chief. When they die we go through everything just like a chief. So the people, we donʼt work for a certain number of days, mourning. Some of the white people thought we were going to we were going to kill some white people to bring things even but that wasnʼt it. One of the things that kind of embarrasses me when itʼs being told is that the Angoon Indians demanded 400 blankets for the life of a Shaman. We uh, we give up something. This is, this comes from respect for... Iʼll tell you a little story that our chief in Basket Bay, he had a little seine boat. Heʼd go fishing with him. Thereʼs a boy fishing with him. He was from our side too but from a different house of course. One day the boy drowned off his boat when they were fishing. My uncle Peter Dick told me. Our chief gathered the family. See, we were just a family that lived in Basket Bay. And this William Peters, he didnʼt move out of there, well he moved out of there in 1902 because of schools. But one of his daughters, Flora Gamble was born there when they came back for drying fish. Some of the little houses were still, still up. So Flora was born there in 1904. We, um, some of those uh, thereʼs some, to my way of thinking thereʼs some missing links for actually tying together weʼre from Angoon. Sometimes some of them they, I get that some of the young guys there, you canʼt talk about anything thatʼs from the next door. Even if itʼs your grandfatherʼs house. Talk about your own house. The a, I was telling about this, when this chief got his family together, he told them,
«Ḵaa naawuweidí,
“Payment for a peopleʼs dead,
áyá téil a yeidí ax̱ jee.»
I donʼt have the payment for it.”
He said he was embarrassed that, thatʼs what they called this gift that we give to another person. Thatʼs done out of respect for, for this chief. He got up, went in the bedroom and brought out our original beaver tunic. Uncle Pete told me this story when he ordered a replacement. When it was finished, my cousin Steven Bell and I paid for it. The um, Pete, he got, he got hurt. He was a tough guy. Rugged. Well they were out fishing one time. They were straightening out the leads. Hoist the leads way up, you know, and get them so that theyʼll come. That block broke. Pete was pushing them. He fell on that rail. They say it broke ribs but he didnʼt stay in the hospital that long and I guess he never took care of it. He, he was a tough guy. It turned to tuburculosis. Some of the things I like because thatʼs the way I was told and the people from Klukwan tell me that Jennie Tlunaut is our grandaughter. Her mom was married to our chief. Sheʼs the one that made the replacement, Jennie. She hand delivered it to Angoon. As luck would have it, 1942, she came down with it. Uncle Peter was already bedridden. Pete, he was a big money maker. He was a head carpenter. He traveled through the Interior and the Aleutians. But his money was gone by the time that it... He sent for us; we just got in from the fall fishing. He called us. He said, "Iʼm in an embarrassing way." He said, "I reported, I ordered this replacement. Now itʼs finished and she brought it here." She saw, she saw him, she started to cry and just knocked the price way down. We got it for $1200 in ʼ42. Ḵaanaawuweidí. This boy that was, that drowned off our chiefʼs boat, his family got that.
Ḵaanaawuweidí we call it.
We call it payment for somebodyʼs dead.
We expect this, but white people die. It always kind of embarrasses me when they, the way they put it when they see um. Let's see now. This is where I... The um, the teacher in Kilisnoo, he just took off for Sitka. There was the beginning of the Navy there. He went over there and told the Navy that the Indians of Angoon are getting ready to kill the white people. They came and just opened fire on Angoon. They um, I heard old man Billy Jones tell this. He stood in the middle of the hall and they were talking about this bombardment. He said his mom was holding his hands. She was crying. He was asking her why they were doing that and she didnʼt know. Seven lives, kids, smoke inhalation. All our canoes, our winter supply of food. Navy burned everything and looted our artifacts. Letʼs see, we found them. In Denver thereʼs a beaver hat. Nobody knows they um, Harold Jacobs was telling me I should put in for it but I didnʼt. I figure if I put a claim on anything I should be able to stand up in front them. You donʼt know whoʼs behind us then. Thereʼs one, in Klukwan we have a, did you know we have a, well I think you do, well we have Ishka Hít? Thereʼs um, thereʼs a tunic at the museum in Seattle. I recognize that little beaver standing on the tunic in a glass case. So I went there and I started to read the plaque there. See Basket Bay chief built Ishka Hít in Klukwan. When he died, his wife sold that. He was married to a Tsimshian girl. So they, um, when we were looking at that, Harold Jacobs asked me if Iʼd like to put in, put a claim on that. Boy. I thought about it for three days. Finally told him, no. If our chief built a house, there must be some people in Klukwan that come from that house. I wouldnʼt want to deprive them of that. So I didnʼt.
Ishkeetaan is the same thing, right? Yeah.
And sure enough there are some people going, "Iʼm from Ishka Hít." Those are,
Jackie Shopert and Ben Schleifman. They're Ishkeetaan.
Ohhh. Boy thereʼs, I have, I have some sayings that, if I hear a name like your, you,
[James Crippen's name]
It was a, James, I was telling the people at the Princeton Hall (boat name) the other night. Our people couldn't say James.
(Theyʼd) say Dzéiwsh.
Theyʼd say Dzéiwsh.
Through the years it got accepted as a Tlingit name.
Thatʼs um, James Geetwéinʼs name. The um, I tell the people that when I tell the stories, that we, weʼre taught. Weʼre taught everything has a spirit, the fish in the sea, animals in the woods. Respect. Donʼt hurt the feelings of these spirits. But of course, being humans, we even our teachers, they... And we have stories telling how they paid for their mistake. I tell the tourist, our people, when they talk about respect for spirits they say, above all, your grandparents, your parents, your brother-in-laws, your family, always respect. Or when I, when I tell a story, sometimes I jump around. Some of the um, times that we spent in certain places, some people ask me about the meaning of names. I told, tell them I donʼt know.
You take «shaa.»
You take “mountain”.
Like Shaadaax'.
[Name of Robert Zuboff]
Shaa is, thatʼs a mountain. And we have other names. I had a niece that died some time back. Her name was
Shaa Ḵíndáx̱.
Just short of a mountain.
Just short of a mountain. Robert Zuboff, he um, was quite a storyteller. He uh, he was taken up to University of Alaska Fairbanks for three and a half months. And thatʼs all he did. But I donʼt know what they did with it. Theyʼve got it there someplace. His stories. His stories are some that I never heard elsewhere. Yeah. Real interesting. I used to listen to him. I donʼt think some of his stories are written the way that he tells them sometimes. He uses rough language sometimes. [Laughter] One time he was in Angoon. He was a heavy. Thereʼs a guy that owned the store, Carl Jacobson, Jr.. He was built just like him. They were standing out in the front there Angoon looking down. Thereʼs a boulder there. Robert Zuboff told Carl Jacobson, "You see that rock over there? Thatʼs where we used to bust slavesʼ heads when they donʼt do what we tell them." Carl Jacobson, "How much is a life worth, Bob?" "Huh. Nice fat one like you and me, four blankets." [Laughter] He was always giving Carl Jacobson a rough time. One time he got a boil on his neck. He had two, two people take him down to the plane. He was just walking like... When he came back, he came to the store. A lot of people were happy to see him. Carl Jacobson came out from his, back of the store. Says, "Well, Bob, what did the doctor say?" "Hah. The doctor, he say, 'You should wash your neck once in a while.'" [Laughter] Yeah, the, when Albert Dick died Peter Dick gave me his brotherʼs name.
Youʼve heard that one. I never got the story on that. Sam Johnson came to me one, one day. Our fatherʼs uncle.
His name is Kidluwaa, I forget what his...
I think his last name was Sam, died in Sitka. Sam, Sam Johnson came to me said, "Our uncle died in Sitka, Iʼm going. Get your things; youʼre going with me." So I went with him. There we saw George Hobson. Youʼve heard the name? He um, he raised Cy Peck. Heʼs from Angoon. Anyway they, he came over and sat by me at the ANB Hall. He said, «Waa sá ??? iduwasáakw?»
Whatʼs ??? your name?
At that time I told them, «Kaatdaa.»
He said, "Oh, boy!"
Aag̱áa áxʼ wooch yát wuduwa.adi yé,
Where they had gotten together at that time,
just then, some of the ladies came. They wanted him. What he said was that that was the place where we had hand to hand combat at one time.
Ḵaatdaa is the name of a place.
[place name]
The other name that was given to me was, um, Robert Zuboffʼs name.
When they, um, when they were having a party the, Danny Junior, he was telling a story about his dream. He said he, in his dream, he said he had this dream three times. This man had on a suit, tie, all dressed up walking through Angoon. He went out there, ask him, "Are you looking for somebody?" This man told him,
Ch'a ax̱ dachx̱anx'iyán ḵaaḵasateent áyá.»
I just (came) to see my grandchildren.”
He just came to see his grand children. He asked him,
«Wáa sá iduwasáakw?»
“What is your name?”
This man told him,
[name] “An arch.”
You know what kaaḵáakw is? An arch. Thatʼs our,
our little house named Kaaḵáakw Hít.
Arch house.
You ever been in Basket Bay? Thereʼs a rock there. Thatʼs what the beaver did when he turned the, turned Basket Bay upside down. When my aunt died, the family got together. They gave me that name, no. Nobodyʼs ever had that [CONTINUED on #22.]