The Tlingit, a tribe of Native Americans, rely heavily upon salmon to live. The tale of Raven and Fog Woman explain both how the Tlingit found the salmon and their spawning season. The totem I saw portraying this story was composed of the following figures from top to bottom: Raven, Gitsanuk and Gitsagag, Fog Woman holding a salmon, and two salmons.

 


A long, long time ago, Raven and his two slaves, Gitsanuk and Gitsagag, built a camp at the mouth of a creek. As winter approached, Raven and his slaves went out fishing for food to last the camp through the cold season. Raven caught only bullheads, and started to make his way back to camp empty-handed, but as they paddled their boat back to shore a great fog rolled in. Raven, Gitsanuk, and Gitsagag were lost.

Suddenly, a woman appeared on the boat. Neither Raven nor his slaves saw her approach, and all she did was ask for Raven's spruce hat. He obliged her request, and she gathered the fog into the hat as though it were a basket. Raven took Fog Woman back to camp and married her.

Since his camp still didn't have food for the winter, Raven planned another fishing trip. This time, only Gitsagag acompanied him; Gitsanuk stayed at camp with Fog Woman. While Raven was out fishing, Fog Womam got hungry and ordered Gitsanuk to fill a basket with water from the creek and bring it back to her. She dipped her finger in the water and told the slave to dump the water in the sea. He did, and as he was doing it, he found a sockeye salmon.

Gitsanuk cleaned, cooked, and ate the fish with Fog Woman. Fog Woman told him to clean his teeth so that Raven would not know about the salmon they had eaten, but the slave did not clean well and Raven was very smart. He saw the meat in his slave's teeth and asked how it got there. Gitsanuk lied, telling Raven that the meat was from a bullhead. Raven pressed on and asked again and again until the slave admitted that Fog Woman had allowed him to find a salmon.

Raven called out to Fog Woman and asked her about the salmon. Instead of explaining, she asked him to fill his spruce hat with water from a stream and bring it back to her. She dipped four fingers into the water and dumped it out. Four salmon fell out with the water. Raven, Fog Woman, and the slaves at a good dinner, but the people needed more salmon to survive the winter. Fog Woman told Raven to build a smokehouse and fill a basket with water from the stream. He did both of these things, and Fog Woman washed her hair with the water and told him to empty the water into the spring. The spring became saturated with salmon. Raven and his people caught and cleaned enough fish to fill the smokehouse, and there were still enough fish remaining to fill it again.

Raven was happy — his people were well-fed, and there was ample food every winter thanks to the constant supply of sockeyes. As time went on, Raven got careless and began to talk carelessly to Fog Woman. They fought, and he struck her. She told him that she would leave and return to her father's house. As she left, a strange sound like the wind came from the smokehouse, and Raven realized that she was serious. Raven ran after Fog Woman. He tried to grab her, but his fingers passed through her as easily as they would through water.

Fog Woman continued to walk, and the salmon followed her. Raven told his slaves to save some of the fish, but they were not strong enough to hold them. Raven and his people no longer had an infinite supply of salmon, but Fog Woman is not cruel. She sends her daughter, Creek Woman, with a basket of water she has touched every year. The salmon come from this basket, and the people always have enough fish to eat.


 

My wife took a photo of the totem I described, and it can be found here. The totem is located in Ketchikan, Alaska, and the photo was taken in August of 2005.


The Lush says re Raven and Fog Woman: ...is this your telling of the story or someone else's translation?
This is my own telling of the story. I heard the tale several times on vacation, and I read the pamphlet available in the local totem center.

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