‘Nantiinaq’ sightings and spirits led to desertion of Alaska village By Naomi Klouda
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 village of Port Chatham came to be deserted; why the abandoned town was shunned, and those who once lived there vowed never to return. Malania was born Jan. 25, 1934 at Port Chatham, then a small village founded at the edge of a peaceful moorage. The village once offered shelter for many people, including Capt. Nathaniel Portlock’s ship on his 1786 Alaska expedition. But when Malania was a baby, the family abruptly moved away from Chatham, leaving the house and every board of its frame behind. What frightening situation caused John and Helen Romanoff to take their children and flee to Nanwalek? “We left our houses and the school, and started all new here,” Malania said in a recent interview, speaking in her traditional Sugt’stun through translator Sally Ash. “There was plentiful land here for gardening and people. My parents built a house on the beach.” What had frightened Malania’s parents hadn’t been a single event. Over a “long period of time,” a nantiinaq (Nan-te-nuk) – or big hairy creature – was reportedly terrorizing villagers. And Malania also told of the spirit of a woman dressed in draping black clothes that would come out of the cliffs. “Her dress was so long she would drag it,” Malania said. “She had a very white face and would disappear back into the cliffs.” The goose-bumped terror felt when people encountered these spirits was nothing compared to what happened to Malania’s godfather, Andrew Kamluck. He was logging in 1931, when someone or something hit him over the head with a piece of log-moving equipment. The blow reportedly killed him instantly. Malania isn’t the only one to tell of strange events at Port Chatham. Port Graham Elder, Simeon Kvasnikoff, said he remembers when nantiinaq was blamed for the disappearance of a gold miner.
“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 Portlock near Port Chatham. The writer had learned the story during an evening spent with the school teacher and his wife at English Bay (Nanwalek) while on a boat trip.
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 Kenai Peninsula that things were not right in Portlock. Men from the cannery town would reportedly go up into the hills to hunt Dall sheep and bear, and never return. Worse yet, sometimes stories would circulate about mutilated bodies that were swept down into the lagoon, torn and dismembered in a way that bears could not, or would not, do.
“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.
We were in Pacifica MO, tonight around 11:30 and we noticed a massive flying creature, not once but three times. My son even noticed it on his own the third time. We were near a large cliff / mountain with some type of cave openings. We don't live in the area, I can say for sure we turned onto a road called viaduct road, went past a fire station and continued on for about 1 mile before we first noticed it. It was brownish / grey and the body portion was at least the size of a large adult human. This creature was tracking us - in a circle pattern. We were driving an escalade with the blue color headlights, this may have cause interest in us. The third time around us we viewed it in front of the vehicle, around driver side and around towards the rear of the vehicle, the factory tinted windows did help it vanish into the sky from out point of view. Please understand when we could see it the range must have been about 150 feet in the air, not more than 250 feet. The distance was never less than 100 yards, often much greater. We were going about 35- 45 MPH. I have never thought of anything like this in my life! It is 3:33 and my son and myself are wide awake in a hotel 17 miles away from the place we first noticed the creature. UPDATE - checked google maps, the first time we noticed this was just off the I-44 Loop near the roads of Lost Hill LN and Clear Creek Road. We have been searching this out for hours. If you have any info please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , thanks!