In olden times only high-caste people knew the story of Raven properly because only they had time to learn it.
At the beginning of things there was no daylight and the world lay in blackness. Then there lived in a house at the head of Nass river a being called Raven-at-the-head-of-Nass (Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l), the principal deity to whom the Tlingit formerly prayed b but whom no one had seen; and in his house were all kinds of things including sun, moon, stars, and daylight. He was addressed in prayers as Axcagû'n, or Axkînaye'gî, My Creator, and Wayîgêna' lxe, Invisible-rich-man. With him were two old men called Old-man-who-foresees-all-troubles-in-the-world (Adawû' l!-ca'naku!) and He-who-knows-everything-that-happens ( Liu'wAt-uwadjî'gî-can). Next to Nâs-cA'kî-yê l, they prayed to the latter of these. Under the earth was a third old person, Old-woman-underneath (Hayi-câ'nak!u), placed under the world by Nâs-cA'kî-yê l. c Nâs-cA'kî-yê l was unmarried and lived alone with these two old men, and yet he had a daughter, a thing no one is able to explain. Nor do people know what this daughter was. The two old persons took care of her like servants, and especially they always looked into the water before she drank to see that it was perfectly clean.
First of all beings Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l created the Heron ( LAq!) as a very tall and very wise man and after him the Raven (Yê l), who was also a very good and very wise man at that time.
Raven came into being in this wise. His first mother had many children, but they all died young, and she cried over them continually. According to some, this woman was Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l's sister and it was Nâs-cA'kî-yê l who was doing this because he did not wish her to have any male children. By and by Heron came to her and said, "What is it that you are crying about all the time?" She answered, "I am always losing my children. I can not bring them up." Then he said, "Go down on the beach when the tide is lowest, get a small, smooth stone, and put it into the fire. When it is red hot, swallow it. Do
not be afraid." She said, "All right." Then she followed Heron's directions and gave birth to Raven. Therefore Raven's name was really ÎtcA'k!u, the name of a very hard rock, and he was hence called TA'qlîk!-îc (Hammer-father). This is why Raven was so tough and could not easily be killed.
Heron and Raven both became servants to Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l, but he thought more of Raven and made him head man over the world. Then Nâs-cA'kî-yê l made some people.
All of the beings Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l had created, however, existed in darkness, and this existence lasted for a long time, how long is unknown. But Raven felt very sorry for the few people in darkness and, at last, he said to himself, "If I were only the son of Nâs-cA'kî-yê l I could do almost anything." So he studied what he should do and decided upon a plan. He made himself very small, turned himself into a hemlock needle, and floated upon the water Nâs-cA'kî-yê l's daughter was about to drink. Then she swallowed it and soon after became pregnant.
Although all this was by the will of Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l and although he knew what was the matter with his daughter, yet he asked her how she had gotten into that condition. She said, "I drank water, and I felt that I had swallowed something in it." Then Nâs-cA'kî-yê l instructed them to get moss for his daughter to lie upon, and on that the child was born. They named him Nâs-cA'kî-yê l also. Then Nâs-cA'kî-yê l cut a basket in two and used half of it for a cradle, and he said that people would do the same thing in future times, so they have since referred its use to him.
l tried to make human beings out of a rock and out of a leaf at the same time, but the rock was slow while the leaf was very quick. Therefore human beings came from the leaf. Then he showed a leaf to the human beings and said, "You see this leaf. You are to be like it. When it falls off the branch and rots there is nothing left of it." That is why there is death in the world. If men had come from the rock there would be no death. Years ago people used to say when they were getting old, "We are unfortunate in not having been made from a rock. Being made from a leaf, we must die."
l also said, "After people die, if they are not witches, and do not lie or steal, there is a good place for them to go to." a Wicked people are to be dogs and such low animals hereafter. The place for good people is above, and, when one comes up there, he is asked, "What were you killed for?" or "What was your life in the world?" The place he went to was governed by his reply. So people used to say to their children, "Do not lie. Do not steal. For the Maker (Nâs-cA'kî-yê l) will see you."
Some time afterward a man died, and Raven, coming into the house, saw him there with his wife and children weeping around him. So he raised the dead man's blanket with both hands, held it over the body, and brought him back to life.
After that both Raven and her husband told this woman that there was no death, but she disbelieved them. Then Raven said to her, "Lie down and go to sleep." And, as she slept, she thought she saw a wide trail with many people upon it and all kinds of fierce animals around. Good people had to pass along this trail in order to live again. When she came to the end of the trail there was a great river there, and a canoe came across to her from the other side of it. She entered this and crossed. There some people came to her and said, "You better go back. We are not in a good place. There is starvation here, we are cold, and we get no water to drink."
This is why people burn the bodies of the dead and put food into the fire for them to eat. Burning their bodies makes the dead comfortable. If they were not burned their spirits would be cold. This is why they invite all those of the opposite clan as well as the nearest relations of the dead man's wife, seating them together in one place, and burn food in front of them. It is because they think that the dead person gets all of the property destroyed at the feast and all of the food then burned up. It is on account of what Raven showed them that they do so.
l got it into his mind to wish for daylight in the world, he had wished for a grandchild through whom it might come. Now, therefore, although he knew what answer he would receive, he sent for Liu'wAt-uwadjî'gî-can and questioned him to see whether he would answer right: "Where did this child come from? Whose is it? Can you tell?" And the other said, "His eyes look like the eyes of Raven." That is how he came to get the name Raven.
After a while the baby began to crawl about. His grandfather thought a great deal of him and let him play with everything in the house. Everything in the house was his. The Raven began crying for the moon, until finally they handed it to him and quick as a wink he let it go up into the sky. After he had obtained everything else, he began to cry for the box in which daylight was stored. He cried, cried, cried for a very long time, until he looked as though he were getting very sick, and finally his grandfather said, "Bring my child here." So they handed Raven to his grandfather. Then his grandfather said to him, "My grandchild, I am giving you the last thing I have in the world." So he gave it to him.
Then Raven, who was already quite large, walked down along the bank of Nass river until he heard the noise people were making as they fished along the shore for eulachon in the darkness. All the people in the world then lived at one place at the mouth of the Nass.
They had already heard that Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l had something called "daylight," which would some day come into the world, and they used to talk about it a great deal. They were afraid of it.
Then Raven shouted to the fishermen, "Why do you make so much noise? If you make so much noise I will break daylight on you." Eight canoe loads of people were fishing there. But they answered, "You are not Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l. How can you have the daylight?", and the noise continued. Then Raven opened the box a little and light shot over the world like lightning. At that they made still more noise. So he opened the box completely and there was daylight everywhere.
When this daylight burst upon the people they were very much frightened, and some ran into the water, some into the woods. Those that had hair-seal or fur-seal skins for clothing ran into the water and became hair seals and fur seals. Hair seal and fur seal were formerly only the names of the clothing they had. Those who had skins called marten skins, black-bear skins, grizzly-bear skins, etc., ran into the woods and turned into such animals.
Petrel (GAnû'k) was one of the first persons created by Nâs-cA'kî-yê
l. He was keeper of the fresh water, and would let none else touch it. The spring he owned was on a rocky island outside of Kuiu, called Dekî'-nû (Fort-far-out), where the well may still be seen. Raven stole a great mouthful of this water and dropped it here and there as he went along. This is the origin of the great rivers of the world, the Nass, Skeena, Stikine, Chilkat, and others. He said, "This thing that I drop here and there will whirl all the time. It will not overflow the world, yet there will be plenty of water." Before this time Raven is said to have been pure white, but, as he was flying up through the smoke hole with Petrel's water, the latter said, "Spirits, hold down my smoke hole." So they held him until he was turned black by the smoke.
After this Raven saw a fire far out at sea. Tying a piece of pitchwood to a chicken hawk's bill, he told him to go out to this fire, touch it with the pitchwood, and bring it back. When he had brought it to him Raven put it into the rock and the red cedar saying, "This is how you are to get your fire, from this rock and this red cedar," and that is the way they formerly did.
Thus Raven (Yê
l) went about among the natives of Alaska telling them what to do, but Nâs-cA'kî-yê l they never saw. Raven showed all the Tlingit what to do for a living, but he did not get to be such a high person as Nâs-cA'kî-yê l, and he taught the people much foolishness. At that time the world was full of dangerous animals and fish. Raven also tied up some witches, and so it was through him that the people believed in witchcraft. Then he told the people that some wild animals were to be their friends (i. e., their crest animals) to which they were to talk,
Once he gave a feast and invited persons to it from other places. He had two slaves after that, named Gîdzagê't and Gîdzanû'q!u. This is why the natives here had slaves. It was on account of his example. There was a man who had no arm, so Raven thought he would be a shaman and cure him. This is how the Tlingit came to have shamans. After there was death he showed them how to dance over the body placed in the middle of the floor.
Raven also taught the people how to make halibut hooks, and went out fishing with them. He had names for the halibut hooks and talked to them before he let them down into the sea. That is why the natives do so now. He also taught them to be very quick when they went out halibut fishing or they would catch nothing.
He also made different kinds of fish traps and taught the people how to use them. He made the small variety and a big trap, shaped like a barrel, for use in the Stikine.
He taught them how to make the seal spear (kAt). It has many barbs, and there are different kinds. One is called tsa-cAxîctdzâ's. It is provided with some attachment that hits the seal (tsa) upon the head whenever it comes to the surface, driving its head under water until it dies, and that is what the name signifies.
Then he showed them how to make a canoe. This he did on the Queen Charlotte islands. At first the people were afraid to get into it, but he said, "The canoe is not dangerous. People will seldom get drowned."
He taught them how to catch a salmon called îcqê'n, which requires a different kind of hook from that used for halibut. The place where he taught people how to get different kinds of shellfish is a beach on the Queen Charlotte islands called Raven's beach to this day.
After he was through teaching the people these things, he went under the ocean, and when he came back, taught them that the sea animals are not what we think they are, but are like human beings. First he went to the halibut people. They have a chief who invited him to eat, and had dried devilfish and other kinds of dried fish brought out. He was well liked everywhere he went under the sea because he was a very smart man. After that he went to see the sculpin people, who were very industrious and had all kinds of things in their houses. The killer-whale people seemed to live on hair-seal meat, fat, and oil. Their head chief was named GonaqAdê't, and even to this day the natives say that the sight of him brings good fortune.
While he was under the ocean he saw some people fishing for halibut, and he tried to tease them by taking hold of their bait. They, however, caught him by the bill and pulled him up as far as the bottom of their canoe, where he braced himself so that they pulled his bill out. They did not know what this bill was and called it
luwu' (bill -of-something-unknown). Then Raven went from house to house inquiring for his bill until he came to the house of the chief. Upon asking for it there, they handed it to him wrapped in eagle down. Then he put it back into its place and flew off through the smoke hole.
Raven left that town and came to another. There he saw a king salmon jumping about far out at sea. He got it ashore and killed it. Because he was able to do everything, the natives did all that he told them. He was the one who taught all things to the natives, and some of them still follow his teachings. After that he got all kinds of birds for his servants. It was through these that people found out he was the Raven.
Once he went to a certain place and told the people to go and fight others. He said, "You go there and kill them all, and you will have all the things in that town." This was the beginning of war.
After having been down among the fish teaching them, Raven went among the birds and land animals. He said to the grouse (nukt), "You are to live in a place where it is wintry, and you will always look out for a place high up so that you can get plenty of breeze." Then he handed the grouse four white pebbles, telling him to swallow them so that they might become his strength. "You will never starve," he said, "so long as you have these four pebbles." He also said, "You know that Sealion is your grandchild. You must be generous, get four more pebbles and give them to him." That is how the sealion came to have four large pebbles. It throws these at hunters, and, if one strikes a person, it kills him. From this story it is known that the grouse and the sealion can understand each other.
Raven said to the ptarmigan: "You will be the maker of snowshoes. You will know how to travel in snow." It was from these birds that the Athapascans learned how to make snowshoes, and it was from them that they learned how to put their lacings on.
Next Raven came to the "wild canary" (s!âs!), which is found in the Tlingit country all the year round, and said: "You will be head among the very small birds. You are not to live on what human beings eat. Keep away from them."
Then he went to the robin and said: "You will make the people happy by letting them hear your whistle. You will be a good whistler."
Then he said to the flicker (kûn): "You will be the head one among the birds next in size. You will not be found in all places. You will be very seldom seen."
He said to the
lugA'n, a bird that lives far out on the ocean: "You will live far out on the ocean on lonely rocks. You will be very seldom seen near shore."
Then he came to the snipes and said to them: "You will always go in flocks. You will never go out alone." Therefore we always see them in flocks.
He said to the âsq!acâ'tcî, a small bird with greenish-yellow plumage: "You will always go in flocks. You will always be on the tops of the trees. That is where your food is."
To a very small bird called kot!ai', about the size of a butterfly, he said: "You will be a very respectable bird. You will be seen only to give good luck. People will hear your voice always but never see you.
Then Raven came to the blue jay and said: "You will have very fine clothes and be a good talker. People will take patterns (probably "colors") from your clothes."
Then he went to a bird called xûnkAhâ' and said: "You will never be seen unless the north wind is going to blow." That is what its name signifies.
He came to the crows and said: "You will make lots of noise. You will be great talkers." That is why, when you hear one crow, you hear a lot of others right afterward.
He came to a bird called gus!yiadû'
l and said to it: "You will be seen only when the warm weather is coming on. Never come near except when warm weather is coming."
He came to the humming bird and said: "A person will enjoy seeing you. If he sees you once, he will want to see you again."
He said to the eagle: "You will be very powerful and above all birds. Your eyesight will be very good. What you want will be very easy for you." He put talons on the eagle and said that they would be very useful to him.
And so he went on speaking to all the birds.
Then he said to the land otter: "You will live in the water just as well as on land." He and the land otter were good friends, so they went halibut fishing together. The land otter was a fine fisherman. Finally he said to the land otter: "You will always have your house on a point where there is plenty of breeze from either side. Whenever a canoe capsizes with people in it you will save them and make them your friends." The land-otter-man (kû'cta-qâ) originated from Raven telling this to the land otter. All Alaskans know about the land-otter-man but very few tell the story of Raven correctly.
If the friends of those who have been taken away by the land otters get them back, they become shamans, therefore it was through the land otters that shamans were first known. Shamans can see one another by means of the land-otter spirits although others can not.
The first man captured (or saved") by the land otters was a KîksA'dî named KAka'. The land otters kept coming to him in large canoes looking like his mother or his sister or other dear relation, and pretending that they had been looking for him for a long time. But they could not control themselves as well as he, and at such times he would discover who they were and that their canoe was nothing but a skate. Finally, when KAka' found that he could not see his friends, he thought that he might as well give himself up to the land otters. Then they named him Qôwu
lka', a word in the land-otter language now applied to a kind of fishhook which the halibut are thought to like better than all others. Nowadays, when a figure of Qôwu lka' is made, it is covered with a dog skin, because it was by means of a dog skin that he frightened the land otters, and they also hang his apron about with dog bones. The shaman who is possessed by him dresses in the same manner. From KAka' the people learned that the land otters affect the minds of those who have been with them for a long time so as to turn them against their own friends. They also learned from him that there are shamans among the land otters, and that the land otters have a language of their own.
For two years KAka''s friends hunted for him, fasting at the same time and remaining away from their wives. At the end of this period the land otters went to an island about 50 miles from Sitka and took KAka' with them. The land-otter tribe goes to this place every year. Then an old land-otter-woman called to KAka': "My nephew, I see that you are worrying about the people at your home. When you get to the place whither we are going place yourself astride of the first log you see lying on the beach and sit there as long as you can." And her husband said, to him: "Keep your head covered over. Do not look around." They gave him this direction because they thought, "If this human being sees all of our ways and learns all of our habits, we shall die." On the way across the land-otter-people sang a song, really a kind of prayer, of which the words are, "May we get on the current running to the shore."
The moment they came to land the land-otter-people disappeared and he did not know what had become of them. They may have run into some den. Then he ran up the sandy beach and sat on the first log he came to, as he had been directed. The instant his body touched it he became unconscious. It was a shaman's spirit that made him so.
By and by KAka''s friends, who were at that time hunting for fur seals, an occupation that carries one far out to sea, suddenly heard the noise of a shaman's drum and people beating for him with batons. They followed the sound seaward until they saw thousands and thousands of sea birds flying about something floating upon the ocean a mile or two ahead of them. Arrived there they saw that it
was a log with KAka' lying upon it clothed only in a kelp apron. The people were delighted to find even his body, and took it into their canoe. He looked very wild and strange. He did not open his eyes, yet he seemed to know who had possession of him, and without having his lips stir a voice far down in his chest said, "It is I my masters." It was a shaman's spirit that said this, and to the present day a shaman's spirit will call the shaman's relations "my masters."
The old woman that saved him and told him to sit astride of the log was his spirit and so was her husband. The log was the spirit's canoe. This woman and her husband had been captured by the land otters long before, but KAka' was so strong-minded a fellow that they felt they could do nothing with him, so they let him go and became his spirits. They could not turn him into a land otter because he did not believe that land otters are stronger than human beings.
After the people had brought KAka' to a place just around the point from their village, he said, "Leave me here for a little while." So most of his relations remained with him, while two went home to tell the people who were there. They were not allowed to keep it from the women. Then they made a house for him out of devil clubs and he was left there for two days while the people of the town fasted. They believed in these spirits as we now believe in God. Before he was brought home the house and the people in it had to be very clean, because he would not go where there was filth. After they got him home they heard the spirit saying far down within him, "It is 1, Old-land-otter-spirit (Kû'cta-koca'nqo-yek)." This was the name of the old woman who first told him what to do. The next spirit was The-spirit-that-saves (Qôsîne'xe-yek). He sang inside of him the same song that the land otters sang. It was his spirit's song and has many words to it.
All the birds that assembled around him when he was floating upon the sea were also his spirits. Even the wind and waves that first, upset him were his spirits. Everything strange that he had seen at the time when the land otters got possession of him were his spirits. There are, always sea birds sitting on a floating log, and from KAka' people learned that these are shamans' spirits. It is from his experience that all Alaskans--Tlingit, Haida, even Eskimo and Athapascans--believe in the land-otter-men (kû'cta-qa). By means of his spirits KAka' was able to stand going naked for two years. This story of KAka' is a true story, and it is from him that the Tlingit believe in shamans' spirits (yêk). a
After leaving the land otters Raven appeared at Taku. There is a cliff at the mouth of that inlet called WAs!As!e' where the North Wind used to live, and Raven stayed there with him. The North Wind was very proud and shone all over with what the Indians thought were icicles. So the Indians never say anything against the North Wind, however long it blows, because it has spirits (i. e., power). Years ago people thought that there were spirits in all the large cliffs upon the islands, and they would pray to those cliffs. They had this feeling toward them because Raven once lived in this cliff with the North Wind.
Raven observed certain regulations very strictly when he was among the rivers he had created. He told people never to mention anything that lives in the sea by its right name while they were there, but to call a seal a rabbit, for instance, and so with the other animals. This was to keep them from meeting with misfortune among the rapids. Formerly the Indians were very strict with their children when they went up the rivers, but nowadays all that has been forgotten.
After this Raven went to Chilkat and entered a sweat house along with the chief of the killer whales who tried to roast him. Raven, however, had a piece of ice near him and every now and then put part of it into his mouth. Then he would tell the killer whale that he felt chilly and make him feel ashamed. "If I did not belong to the GânAxte'dî family," said Raven, "I could not have stood that sweat house." For this reason the GânAxte'dî now claim the raven as an emblem and think they have more right to it than anybody else.
It was from Raven that people found out there are Athapascan Indians. He went back into their country. So the Chilkat people to this day make their money by going thither. He also showed the Chilkat people how to make tcî
l, secret storehouses maintained some distance out of town, and he taught them how to put salmon into these and keep them frozen there over winter. So the Chilkat people got their name from tcî l, "storehouse," and xât, "salmon."
Raven also showed the Chilkat people the first seeds of the Indian tobacco and taught them how to plant it. After it was grown up, he dried it, gathered clam shells, roasted them until they were very soft, and pounded them up with the tobacco. They used to chew this, and it was so good that it is surprising they gave it up. They made a great deal of money at Chilkat by trading with this among the interior Indians, but nowadays it is no longer planted.
80:a See story 1. Into this story, as will be seen, the writer's informant has woven a large portion of the sacred myths of his people.
80:b In another place the writer's informant admitted that he had concluded this must be the case because there were no bad stories about Nâs-cA'kî-yê
80:c See Twenty-sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, p. 454.
81:a See Twenty-sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, pp. 460 to 463.
88:a See story 5.