The Shanaghan How did the Shanaghan help her people?

Sarah Abel’s story of two shanaghan and nanaa’in’ at a fish trap

Long ago stories, some of them are not true, even so what is said is storytelling, that’s why it’s told. Some of it I don’t remember too well, but I will talk about it.

Two shanaghan were living at the fish trap in the summer time. They were poor and weak. There was lots of meat, caribou. The people moved around. It was hard for the shanaghan to move from camp to camp, so the people made them a fish trap and left them there. If they killed fish, that way they would eat. In those days it was hard to get store bought things. They just had one small knife which they shared. They cut and dried fish. They had a fire in the middle and slept beside it. When they fished, sometimes they got only two or three fish.

No matter how few fish they caught, they would dry them. “If there’s not enough meat for a lot of people, then they can help themselves to this fish.” They worked for that.

When they had killed quite a lot of fish a nanaa’in’ [bushman] came upon them and ate their fish. He didn’t come in but tormented them from outside. One of the shanaghan had a good mind. She set geh snares for him and they got geh. As they caught each geh, he would eat it. He took all the geh out of their snares, too. All that they caught, only he lived on it.

Finally he was sleeping, I guess. While he was sleeping somewhere, they found one of the geh. They cut its stomach and carefully cut out the guts. At the fireplace, they put it in the hot ashes.

Then the nanaa’in’ came and visited them. He poked his head inside the doorway and all night as they slept, he tormented them.

One of the shanaghan put on her mitts. The geh guts, the insides were really hot. She had put them on the hot ashes which were mixed with coals, and the guts were boiling. As it was getting dark, the nanaa’in’ came again to harass them around their doorway. She had the hot geh guts in her hand. Of course, they didn’t have an axe either so they burned long dry willows. Some of the wood was outside and he shook the ends so the coals sparked. He really gave those shanaghan a hard time.

Finally the old shanaghan was going to kill him. She had prepared to do it. With her mitts, she took the guts carefully and placed them on her palms. When the nanaa’in’ poked his head in the door opening, she held the hot geh guts on the palm of her hands. As he was looking down at them, she threw it on his face. She killed him, my grandchild.

They fell asleep. All the previous nights the nanaa’in’ bothered the old women and they never slept well. The fish hung above them and he would take that, too, while they slept. The shanaghan threw the hot rabbit guts on him and then they heard a big noise. They tried to wait for him, in case he came back. They waited for him but a long time passed, so they fell asleep.

They woke at dawn. They looked down the way the nanaa’in’ had gone. It was around September, I guess. They had been at the fish trap since the month of June. So, they looked for him and where he had fallen down, he was laying dead. They saw him.

So now the shanaghan killed lots of fish and made a cache. They cooked the guts and kept the grease and put it in there also. They made grease from the guts and dried the fish; all that they put in the cache. When it began to freeze, they hung up the fish individually or two together. This way it froze and they put it in the cache. They did this with the rabbits, too.

Grandchild, meanwhile lots of people travelled in the mountains and never killed any food. They checked on the shanaghan and they had killed a lot of fish. The people depended on them, they said.