The story of Our Uncles' House totem pole

Posted: Sunday, June 03, 2001

Totem Pole Story of the Kaa Kaakch Aadei totem pole as told by Archie J. Cavanaugh Sr., of Kake

An Uncle took his two nephews away from the people because they were misbehaving. He had to try and correct their behavior. To do so, he took them to an island where there was a cave called Taa Took. He entered the dark area of the cave knowing he would find a kooshdaakaa, which he covered up. This creature was known as the "bogeyman" of the Tlingits, a terrifying and dreaded thing, part man and part land otter.

Later that night the Uncle took his nephews to the cave to tell them a story. He told them how he was defeated during various times of his life. When he finished, he would tell another story of defeat. Each time, his nephews would say, "I wish I was there Uncle, I wish I was there to help you."

The next evening, he brought the nephews to the cave to tell more stories of his defeats. Upon finishing his story on the third night, he went over to the kooshdaakaa and took off its cover. It made a noise and emitted a horrible smell. When the Uncle turned around, his nephews were not there; they had run away in fear. Uncle had to go and look for them to bring them back. When they returned, the kooshdaakaa was gone. Uncle told them the reason for bringing them to the cave:

"You said that you would have helped me during the times of my defeat, yet when you faced this scary thing, you ran in fear. You must understand from this experience that you must not grow up weak. That, no matter what the problem, no matter how life may defeat you, you must not turn away from anything. You must stand and face whatever comes your way."

The boys were different after that. Because of what they learned from Uncle, they were able to come out of life victorious.

- Courtesy Tlingit Haida Vocational Training & Resource Center.

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