Happy Tlingit Shaman, sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen
Shaman and Kushtaka! Both struck terror in the hearts of the Tlingit and Haida people, for both possessed frightening supernatural powers. The shaman, healer and seer, battled the kushtaka (Tlingit for Land Otter Man; in Haida, gageets) for the spirit of a man in danger of drowning or dying of exposure. Stories of kushtaka exploits, though they may no longer evoke the spine-tingling chill of earlier times, still have the power to mesmerize those who hear them.
The Tlingit and Haida universe abounded with spirits. In this world, the boundaries between animal and human realms were blurred. Early people could hear an omen in the hoot of an owl, or a chilling curfew in the croak of a raven. Should you hear the hoot of an owl, be prepared, it may be heralding very bad news if you are of the North Coast people!
The Chilcat blanket is quite an intricate robe, each family handing down the blanket from generation to generation.
The shaman mediated between the spirit world and the human realm. He was a figure of great power in most Native American cultures. Both the Southwest and North Coast people overflow with tales of the supernatural, so if you are feeling low, see your local Shaman! The cure may be worse that the cause, but it’s worth a try.