Stories of old.

I have enjoyed my ANTH class this semester and would like to share my final project. Retold by me means I turned the legends into stories, originals are shorter and straight to the point.

            This semester I was able to learn about the other Native Alaskan cultures and their histories. There is so much to consider when realizing many of these cultures have lost so much since first contact. The continued traditions are so important in holding on to what each identity is for each culture. For me there is an awareness that our oral traditions are important and should be recorded as well as passed down orally. For this project I will write the stories told to me growing up regarding our Inupiaq legends.

The Mean Boy

Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger

            There are many stories told to help teach us how to be. We are meant to be kind and respectful. There is the story of the boy who was mean. This mean boy grew up with his grandma. Each time he saw a spider, he would capture it, then pull out the spider’s web from its belly and torture the insect until it was dead. Grandma saw her young boy and warned him not to be mean to the spiders and he did not listen. When the birds would come and land by their fish camp, the mean little boy would go and throw rocks so they would all fly away. Grandma would tell the boy to treat the birds with respect because they are also important. The mean little boy did not listen and threw rocks at birds any chance he got. Then the boy started to be mean to people and all the other kids in the village would not play with him. One day the mean little boy was walking back to camp, and he tripped and fell so hard he was knocked out. When he woke up, he could not see, he reached for his eyes, and they were covered with sticky web. The mean boy cried for help but the noise of the birds around him made it so no one could hear him. He stumbled and struggled and finally rose to his feet. Looking up to the sky and finally being able to see from removing the web from his eyes, he saw a bird diving down straight to his face. He did not have time to react, and the mean boy was blinded by the bird. The poor mean boy was not mean anymore for he had to depend on the kindness of others to survive. This is our lesson to be kind to others, no matter how small, to respect the animals and to be thankful. (In the teenage version the mean boy died from the bird, this was adjusted to be more kid friendly.)


The Lazy Girl

Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger

Long ago there was a family that lived in isolation. This was during the time when summers were spent preparing for winter. In this family there was a mom, dad, and a young daughter. The daughter was an only child and was not a very good helper to the mom and dad growing up. The daughter was about the reach womanhood and the mom was teaching her how to gather and clean moss for when this moment came, she would be prepared. Mom told her daughter to be very picky with the moss she chose and for it to be white and clean. As soon as mom instructed her daughter, she tasked her with gathering the moss. The daughter was so lazy she picked any kind of moss and didn’t pay attention to if it was clean or not. Filling her basket as fast as she could she was done not soon after her mom left. When the daughter got home mom told her to store her pickings for when she started per first cycle. The time soon came and the daughter reached womanhood. She used the moss she picked for her first cycle.

            Time had passed since the first cycle for the daughter, and it did not come back the next month, nor the month after that. By this time the belly of the daughter was getting larger, and the parents stayed up late to talk that night. They talked about how there is no one near their camp and it would be impossible for their daughter to get pregnant. They could not understand what was going on and devised a plan. The father would stay up each night and wait to see if anyone came to camp that they did not know about. The very next night the father spent the day sharpening his blade just in case someone was sneaking into camp.

            After staying awake for a long time after the mom and daughter went to sleep the father became very sleepy. Just as he was about to go to bed, he heard something near his daughter. He could not believe his eyes. A worm emerged from his daughter and went to their stored food, he was in such shock he stumbled and scared the worm back into his daughter. His plan was to wait for the next night and to kill the worm that was living inside his daughter.

            That next day the dad told the mom what he had witnessed. She was in shock but knew her daughter would not go to sleep that night if they revealed the truth. The moss she used for her menstrual cycle was not cleaned and a worm was using her as a host to grow very large. When night came both the daughter and mom went to sleep as usual before the dad. This night the dad was ready to kill the worm. When it came out of his daughter, he was so enraged that he sliced the head off. This was a mistake as the worm receded back in his daughter and she died a few days after suffering and pain. The mom and the dad were saddened by the death and spread their story so that others do not make the same mistakes. This story is passed down so that we can learn to respect our parents, listen to them by following directions and to not be lazy.


The Orca and The Wolf

Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger

            The legend we are told growing up is that when an Orca is about to die, they go to the shore and beach themselves, when this is done, they turn into the wolf. When the wolf dies, he walks into the ocean and turns into the Orca. This is the cycle of the Orca and the Wolf. Their paths intertwine connecting the land and the sea. The wolf will hunt in a pack on land and the orca will also hunt as a pack in the sea. They are each other, but one is of land, and one is of sea, both important. The natural world around us is our play area, work area and the respect for animals is inherent in our culture, this legend is meant to teach us that we are all connected and that the sea is just as important as the land. We are meant to respect both.


The Big foot

Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger

            Long ago, my great, great grandmother had her very own berry picking patch that she kept secret. When the berries were ripe, she would go to her spot and stay there until all her buckets were filled. Then she would head back home with her bounty. One year she was looking forward to getting to her berry patch. She was always prepared to stay the night if she needed to by bringing reindeer hide for shelter. This year was a good year for the berries, so she decided to overnight. That night she heard something outside her cover, and she laid very still. She felt a hairy hand reach for her reindeer hide and she yelled so loud “get away.” Whatever that big hairy thing was that tried to take her reindeer hide was it ran away. She sure had a hard time sleeping and as soon as light came, she packed up her berries and gear up ready to go. She saw the big footprints in the tundra and knew she had to go. She never went back to her berry patch and always shared where she picked her berries after that. She passed down this story to my mom’s mom and it was then told to my mom, who then told me.


The Mosquito Man

Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger

Long ago, there lived a wicked hearted man. He despised summer. In part, due to the pestilence of the mosquitoes. So, each day he worked very hard to kill as many mosquitoes as he could. No matter how many he slapped or flicked, there were always more to fight the next day.

This wicked man did not understand that the mosquitoes were an important food source for the birds of the sky. Each animal and insect in life plays its role in the circle we call life. Our mother taught us to respect animals and insects alike, only taking what we need to survive for food.

One spring, the man was hunting in the woods with his dog sled team. His hate for mosquitoes transpired to different parts of his life. Creating a hate in his heart for all life.

His dog team knew to listen to their master. The one time they did not listen was the last time the wicked man would wreak hate in this world.

It was a spring day with the snow not yet melted. There were spring puddles here and there that the dog team worked hard to run through. Then on a trail well used the dogs came to a sudden stop. The furious wicked man beat the dogs to keep going, yelling, and screaming like the mad man he was. Still, the dogs refused to go on. Then he looked down the trail. There was a figure of a man on the trail. The wicked man was taken back and started yelling at this figure. He knew he did not hear him because he still stood there. So, the wicked man went to go talk to this figure.

Upon close contact the wicked man trembled at this figure, for it was not a man at all, but a swarm of mosquitoes shaped as a man. The mosquitoes swarmed him. Sucking so much blood from this man that he passed out and soon died. When a caribou comes across a swarm of mosquitoes, this will happen to the caribou. The caribou will be so badly bitten they could not live on.

Being cruel in any shape or form will have severe consequences. Always remember there is a reason for all forms of life, and the best thing to do is to show respect for all life. In our culture, Inupiaq, we are told stories from old, so that we do not be cruel. Lessons are learned through stories like this to not be mean, even to blood sucking insects. When an animal is caught for food, nothing is wasted, we eat all that is edible.


The New Beginning

Retold by Gertie Zitzelberger

There is a saying that when the creatures of old return, the end is near. The ending is a new beginning. The creatures of old are the mountain giants that are asleep they will wake up, the lights of circles or orbs that help guide the way or cause mischief will come back, the little people will reveal themselves and they will no longer be afraid to show themselves. There is the legend of the giant who dropped his backpack, this is Besboro Island that is a small Island located off the coast of Unalakleet. The sleeping giants were beings that fell in a deep slumber and will wake up again. The orbs are lights that we cannot explain, we take caution as some are known to lead you to get lost and some help you find your way when you are lost. These lights will come back. The little people of the tundra are stories we grew up with as well. They are ten times stronger than a man and so fast, they will no longer hide. When all these come to pass and return the end is near. The end of the world is the birth of a new world in a sense that we will all have a chance at a new beginning.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing these stories! (The Lazy Girl was kind of gross!) But these oral folk tales hold valuable lessons and are worth preserving!
    I hope you and your son are well. Press on in your classes sister, and in the Lord as well! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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