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Kushtaka are mythical creatures found in the stories of the Tlingit and Tsimshian Indians of Southeastern Alaska. Loosely translated, kushtaka means, "land otter man".

They are similar to the Nat'ina of the Dan'aina Indians of South Central Alaska, and the Urayuli of the Eskimos in Northern Alaska.

Physically, kushtaka are shape-shifters capable of assuming either human form or the form of an otter. In some accounts, a kushtaka is able to assume the form of any species of otter; in others, only one. Accounts of their behaviour seem to conflict with one another. In some stories, kushtaka are cruel creatures who take delight in tricking poor Tlingit sailors to their deaths. In others, they are friendly and helpful, frequently saving the lost from death by freezing. In many stories, the kushtaka save the lost individual by distracting them with curiously otter-like illusions of their family and friends as they transform their subject into a fellow kushtaka, thus allowing him to survive in the cold. Naturally, this is counted a mixed blessing. However, kushtaka legends are not always pleasant. In some legends it is said the kushtaka will imitate the cries of a baby or the screams of a woman to lure victims to the river. Once there, the kushtaka either kills the person and tears them to shreds or will turn them into another kushtaka.

Legends have it kushtaka can be warded off through copper, urine, and in some stories fire.

Since the kushtaka mainly preys on small children, it has been thought by some that it was used by Tlingit mothers to keep their children from wandering close to the ocean by themselves.

It is also said that the kushtaka emit a high pitched, three part whistle in the pattern of low-high-low.

EtymologyEdit

Loosely translated, kushtaka means, "land otter man".

FamilyEdit

They are similar to the Nat'ina of the Dan'aina Indians of South Central Alaska, and the Urayuli of the Eskimos in Northern Alaska.

Description/MorphologyEdit

Physically, kushtaka are shape-shifters capable of assuming either human form or the form of an otter, usually around the size of a man. In some accounts, a kushtaka is able to assume the form of any species of otter whereas in some others they are limited to one

BehaviorEdit

Kushtakas are usually known to be malevolent, always at war with a village's shaman, but there are a few tales where they were actually beneficial to the Tlingits. In many stories, the kushtaka save the lost individual by distracting them with curiously otter-like illusions of their family and friends as they transform their subject into a fellow kushtaka, thus allowing him to survive in the cold.

In some legends it is said the kushtaka will imitate the cries of a baby or the screams of a woman to lure victims to the river. Once there, the kushtaka either kills the person and tears them to shreds or will turn them into another kushtaka.

Kushtakas are known for kidnapping human babies. Once they have a human baby for a long time, the baby will become a kushtaka, too. The function was probably used by Tlingit mothers to keep their children from wandering close to the ocean by themselves.

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