The palraiyuk (plural palraiyiit) was a cryptid reported from rivers, lakes, and marshes in Alaskan Beringia, as well as the coasts of Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea. It is frequently synonymised with the sea serpent tizheruk, and with British Columbian "sea wolves" such as the wasgo and sisiutl, but appears to be heavily mythologised.
Stories of the palraiyuk, images of which were often painted on the sides of umiak boats and the interiors of wooden dishes, were collected by anthropologist Edward William Nelson at the end of the 19th Century. According to Nelson, local people claimed that, when the climate was warmer, the pal rai yuk used to live in lakes, creeks, and marshes in the swampy country between the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers, where it would hide among the grass and ambush people and kayaks. The last pal rai yuk was said to have been killed by a hunter whose wife had previously fallen victim to it. The palraiyuk is known primarily from myths, and is traditionally depicted as a serpentine, six-limbed animal sometimes compared to an alligator. According to ethnologist John White, on Nunivak Island the name pal rai yuk is applied to an animal very similar to the tizheruk.
The Beringian Iñupiat people believed in a similar animal, the tiritchik, a monstrous reptile or dragon with six short legs, an alligator's tail, hard scales, and small head on a long neck. However, later versions of the tiritchik removed the additional pair of legs.
Notes and references
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc., ISBN 1576072835
- Mackal, Roy P. (1980) Searching for Hidden Animals: An Inquiry Into Zoological Mysteries, Cadogan Books, ISBN 978-0946313051
- Swords, Michael D. "The Wasgo or Sisiutl: A Cryptozoological Sea-Animal of the Pacific Northwest Coast of the Americas," Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1991)
- Woodley, Michael & Naish, Darren & Shanahan, Hugh P. "How Many Extant Pinniped Species Remain to be Described?," Historical Biology, Vol. 20, No. 4 (December 2008)
- Nelson, Edward William (1900) The Eskimo About Bering Strait – Online
- Webster, Donald H. & Zibell, Wilfried (1970) Iñupiat Eskimo Dictionary – Online