Among societies without a written language, storytelling is an important way to record history. Events, accomplishments, values, spiritual beliefs, and even survival techniques are passed from generation to generation through people rather than books
Traditional Alutiiq tales held many lessons. Legends recounted the pursuits of ancestors, explained unusual events, discussed the dangers of wandering far from home, and gave examples of model behavior. The Man of Winter, a story told to noisy children, warned that those who misbehave may cause bad weather. Children learned that poor behavior can have consequences for an entire community.
Late Elder Lucille Davis with Valen Bishop.
Myths explained the cosmos–the origin of people, the stars and the animals. The Thirsty Whale story reveals the Alutiiq belief that every creature had a human-like consciousness, represented by a small person that lives inside of it. Whalers told such stories when training their apprentices.
Although many people practiced story telling, in the past, each Alutiiq community had at least one ritual specialist.Known as a kas’aq, this person had an expert knowledge of stories, songs, and dances. He led traditional ceremonies and helped to educate children.