Our Storytellers

Sharing our history.

The first Danish-American Alaska Expedition of 1933 collected stories from the Prince William Sound area. The late Dr. Kaj Birket-Smith of the National Museum of Denmark and Dr. Frederica de Laguna of the University of Pennsylvania published results of their studies in 1953 as "The Chugach Eskimo." The National Museum of Denmark and Dr. de Laguna graciously granted their permission for republication here, most identically to the original stories.

Dr. de Laguna and Birket-Smith recorded legends from three key sources:

Chief Makari (Makarka) Feodorovich Chimovitski, who was born in the village of Nuchek. His ancestry reflects the cultural diversity of the region – a grandmother from Kodiak Island, a great-grandfather from Yakutat, and a great-grandmother who was the daughter of a Chugach chief from Mummy Island near Cordova. Makari’s traditional name was Alingun Nupatlkertluqoq Angakhuna. His older brother (Peter) was the last chief to die at Nuchek. Makari possessed many of the spiritual powers which usually accompanied the position of chief. He could predict weather changes from observing animal behavior and once saw land otters with human faces. His daughter (Matrona) once saw dwarfs and people with pointed heads. Makari eventually became one of the chief storytellers and record keepers of the entire Prince William Sound area. He reported these stories at the age of 86.

Paul Eliah Chimovitski, Makari’s brother, also participated as a storyteller. His Aleut name was Tyiktlun.

Stephan Britshalov, the third contributor, grew up in the village of Chenega. His Aleut name, Atlutaq, came from his great-grandfather who lived on Wooded Island. The elder Atlutaq was known as a great whaler and hunter. He would hunt brown bears with a club and chase foxes until they dropped from exhaustion. Other contributed stories to round out the geographic coverage of the Chugach Region Alaska. The following stories, virtually word for word as the narrators told them, are based both on prehistoric and historic events and beliefs. Elders of the region reviewed this compilation and expressed great joy at their resurrection and the memories they revive. The following are three stories taken from the book “Chugach Legends – Stories and Photographs of the Chugach Region.”