‘Nantiinaq’ sightings and spirits led to desertion of
Malania Kehl, the eldest resident in Nanwalek, knows many traditional stories that pass along pieces of history, as well as cultural knowledge. Recently, she told of how her birth village, Port Chatham, was deserted after strange haunting by a Nantiinaq, which is reportedly similar to a Sasquatch.
Malania Helen Kehl, Nanwalek’s eldest resident, is frequently called upon around the village to impart her memories of how life used to be on this southern-most tip of the Kenai Peninsula.Among her remembrances are medicines used to heal the sick and ways of preserving sea lion meat in barrels for winter. She also is one of the last to tell the ghostly story of how the
“This one guy over there had a little place where he was digging for gold,” Kvasnikoff said. “He went up there one time and never came back. No one found any sign of him.”
Another story recounted the experience of a sawmill owner named Tom Larsen, who had a job cutting wood for the old fish traps. He told of spotting nantiinaq on the beach once. After going back to his house to get his gun, he returned to the beach and “the thing looked at him,” Kvasnikoff said. For some reason, Larsen decided against firing a shot.
In an April 15, 1973 issue of the Anchorage Daily News, a feature article told of the abandoned cannery town of
The story is told:
“Portlock began its existence sometime after the turn of the century as a cannery town. In 1921, a post office was established there, and for a time the residents, mostly natives of Russian-Aleut mix, lived in peace with their picturesque mountain-and-sea setting.”
According to the ADN story, sometime in the beginning years of World War II, rumors began to seep along the
“Tales were told of villagers tracking moose over soft ground. They would find giant, man-like tracks over 18 inches in length closing upon those of the moose, the signs of a short struggle where the grass had been matted down, then only the deep tracks of the manlike animal departing toward the high, fog-shrouded mountains …”
The article goes on to tell how the fed-up townfolk decided to move en masse, and by 1950, the U.S. Post office had closed there.
Even into more recent times, nantiinaq reports haven’t stopped entirely. A man who prefers to remain anonymous tells his story online at http://strangestate.blogspot.com/2007_09_01_archive.html
Though Sasquatches became something of a popular phenomenon in the 1960s and ‘70s in the Lower 48, the nantiinaq in Sugt’stun culture has been around for a long time. According to the culture, he might be a different kind of creature, a tragic half-man, half-beast who wasn’t always in this condition. He perhaps used to be fully human.
Elder Nick Tanape said he doesn’t discredit the stories about nantiinaq, but says he’s never seen one. “I think there’s something to them,” he said. Malania said that, once her family moved to Nanwalek, the nantiinaq stayed far away and left them in peace. It didn’t follow them, and for that they were grateful. She grew up, raised 13 children and remains one of the few regional elders who can pass on the old traditions.Malania – a favorite among the young people of Nanwalek, especially when she tells stories – learned many things from her grandmother, who was a traditional healer.
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