Australian Geographer Patrick Nunn opens a book of his with the following story told by a Chief of the Haida people of Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands).
“Young recalled, his people lived in northwest Haida Gwaii in a large village across from Frederick Island. One day, a group of children playing on the beach noticed a stranger some distance away, wearing a fur cape of a kind never before seen in Haida lands. Running up to her, one cheeky boy lifted the cape to expose the stranger’s back, the sight of which made the children laugh and jeer.
After the adults called their children away, the woman went to sit alone on the sand near the ocean’s edge. The water rose to her feet, so she got up and moved a little distance up the beach. The water again reached her feet and so it went on until the ocean had climbed higher than ever before. It became clear to the Haida that their homes would shortly be flooded, so in panic they tied logs together to make rafts and, taking to the ocean, were able to save themselves.
Young explained that because these crude rafts could not be steered, each drifted to a different place, a story that could be a distant memory of the time — thousands of years ago — when the first Haida peoples are known to have been dispersed by the rising of the ocean level here.”
Patrick Nunn goes on to conclude: “Young’s story can be read as myth, especially the detail about the stranger and the unfamiliar fur cape she wore. […] But ist is also science, a distant echo of ancient people’s explanations of what happenend to them […] 12.700 years ago.”
Patrick Nunn stresses the point that stories llike these must have been passed on orally for around 500 generations, an astonishing cultural achievement that defys the notion of oral culture as short-lived or deficiant. See also this article by Nunn for aeon.co magazine here.