The Dog Children
A young woman was cautioned by her grandmother not to eat tree pitch, but she only laughed at this advice. One day when this young woman was in the forest digging lady-fern roots she got some pitch and started to chew it. Soon she felt something moving around and told her grandmother. The old lady knew immediately that her granddaughter was pregnant with puppies.
A lot of people, including Raven, Crow and Great Blue Heron lived in the village with this young woman. When Raven discovered she was pregnant, he told all the people to pack up their belongings and move, leaving her behind.
The young woman’s grandmother cried as she watched Raven take a dipper of water and extinguish all the fires in the village. When he came to her fire, the old woman hid a smoldering coal in a horse-clam shell. Then she spoke to a little dog that was running around, “You are going to be smart. You will show her where I am hiding this.”
The dog watched the old woman bury the shell containing the smoldering coal. After the people left the village, only this little dog remained. When the pregnant young woman returned to the village, she realized that everyone had left. It was very quiet. All the fires were out. She sat down and began to cry, but the little dog ran over to her and started to rub itself against her. Then it ran off into the forest to where the old woman had hidden the horse-clam shell, dug some soil from the top of it and ran back to the young woman. Three times, the little dog ran back and forth. Finally, on the fourth time, the woman went to see what it was doing. The little dog began to dig. Then the woman dug down deeper and found the horse-clam shell. Opening the shell, she discovered the smoldering coal that had been left for her by her grandmother. She returned to her house and was able to build a fire.
Winter came, and the tide was very low at night. Every night the woman made a torch from pitch wood and went down to the beach to dig for clams. It was on the beach that the young woman gave birth to her children – they were puppies, ten males and one female. She returned home and made a place for her puppies beside the fire. After rekindling the fire, she went back to the beach to dig again for clams.
While the woman was on the beach, she could hear a lot of noise coming from her house, so she gathered up her torch and her clams and went to see what was happening. But when she got near, the noise stopped. She ran into the house and found only her pups, piled one on top of another to keep warm. The woman cooked the clams and fed her puppies, which were growing rapidly.
The next night, the young woman went down again to the beach, and again when she started to dig, the noise resumed. She placed her digging stick in front of the torch and hung her hat and cape on it so it would appear that she was still standing there on the beach digging clams. The noise from her house was growing louder and louder. The woman sneaked up to her house, and, peeking through a crack saw naked puppies dancing around the fire without their dog skins, which were piled up near the fire where they usually slept. Her children were human!
While the boys danced, the little girl kept watch at the door for their mother. “Where is our mother?” the boys asked her. “Oh, she is still down at the beach digging clams,” the girl replied. The boys continued to dance. Suddenly, their mother threw open the door, ran into the house and tossed all of the dog skins into the fire, where they burned. Now all the dogs were human.
One night, the children who had grown up quickly, were sitting around the fire and asking each other what they were going to do. One of the boys stood up and said, “I am going into the woods and hunt deer for us to eat.” “I am going to hunt seals,” announced another young man. Another said that he would be a porpoise hunter. Each of the woman’s sons decided on a certain task. Then they asked their little sister what she was going to do. “”I will cook everything that my brothers bring home,” the girl replied. That is why today women cook the food that the men bring home from hunting. The next morning the boys went out hunting and shot lots of game for their sister to cook.
Crow returned to the village one day to see if the abandoned young woman had died, but instead she saw the woman’s family and their many provisions. The young men gave some smelt to Crow to take home with her, but told her not to say where they had come from.
Raven had wondered where Crow was going, so when she returned, he sent people to spy on her to see what she had brought home. Flea was the first one to spy, but he was too noisy when he jumped. Crow heard him approaching and put away her smelt. “She isn’t eating anything,” Flea reported to Raven. Next, Louse went to spy on Crow. She landed on Crow’s head, but as she landed, she let out her breath, and Crow heard her, too. None of them could find out what Crow was bringing home.
When Crow ran out of smelt, she left again to visit the abandoned woman. This time, when Crow returned, Raven went over to her house, beat her up and searched for what she had brought home. But Raven couldn’t find anything. Next, Bedbug was sent to spy on Crow. Because she was not aware of Bedbug crawling around her hair, Crow took out her smelt and began to eat. “So that is what you are eating!” called out Bedbug. Crow could not deny it, so she said she had received it from the young woman whom they had abandoned. “The pups became human. They have deer, mountain goat, porpoise and seal put away for the winter,” Crow explained.
All the people returned to the village to visit the abandoned woman. When they got ashore, they were invited to eat. Raven sat at one end where they gave him a dogfish to eat, as it was he who had extinguished all the fires, but all the other people were given a great meal. Today we eat the same foods that were served at this feast.
These were the ancestors of the Homalco People.