Native American Legends
A Tlingit Legend
No one knows just how the story of Raven really begins so each
starts from the point where he does know it. Here it was always
begun in this way. . . .
When Raven was born his father tried to instruct him and train
him in every way and after he grew up, told him he would give him
strength to make a world. After trying in all sons of ways Raven
finally succeeded. Then there was no light in this world, but it
was told him that far up the Nass was a large house in which someone
kept light just for himself.
Raven thought over all kinds of plans for getting this light the
world and finally he hit on a good one. The rich man living there
had a daughter, and he thought, "I will make myself very small
and drop into the water in the form of a small piece of dirt. The
girl swallowed this dirt and became pregnant.
When her time was completed, they made a hole for her as was customary
in which she was to bring forth, and lined it with rich furs of
all sorts. But the child did not wish to be born on those fine things.
Then its grandfather felt sad and said, "What do you think
it would be best to put into that hole? Shall we put in moss?"
So they put moss inside and the baby Was born on it. Its eyes were
very bright and moved around rapidly.
Round bundles of varying shapes and sizes hung about on the walls
of the house. When the child became a little larger it crawled around
back of the people weeping continually, and as it cried it pointed
to the bundles. This lasted many days. Then its grandfather said,
"Give my grandchild what he is crying for. Give him that one
hanging on the end. That is the bag of stars."
So the child played with this, rolling it about on the floor back
of the people, until suddenly he let it go up through the smoke
hole. It went straight up into the sky and the stars scattered out
of it, arranging themselves as you now see them. That was what he
went there for.
Some time after this he began crying again, and he cried so much
that it was thought he would die. Then his grandfather said, "Untie
the next one and give it to him." He played and played with
it around behind his mother. After a while he let that go up through
the smoke hole also, and there was the big moon.
Now just one thing more remained, the box that held the daylight,
and h6 cried for that. His eyes turned around and. showed different
colors, and the people began thinking that he must be something
other than an ordinary baby. But it always happens that a grandfather
loves his grandchild just as he does his own daughter, so the grandfather
said, "Untie the last thing and give it to him." His grandfather
felt very sad when he gave this to him. When the child had this
in his hands, he uttered the raven cry, "Ga," and flew
out with it through the smoke hole. Then the person from whom he
had stolen it said, "That old manuring raven has gotten all
of my things."
Journeying on. Raven was told of another place, where a man had
an everlasting spring of water. This man was named Petrel [Ganu'k].
Raven wanted this water because there was none to drink in this
world, but Petrel always slept by his spring, and he had a cover
over it so as to keep it all to himself. Then Raven came in and
said to him, "My brother-in-law, I have just come to see you.
How are you?" He told Petrel of all kinds of things that were
happening outside, trying to induce him to go out to look at them,
but Petrel was too smart for him and refused.
When night came, Raven said, "I am going to sleep with you,
brother-in-law." So they went to bed, and toward morning Raven
heard Petrel sleeping very soundly. Then he went outside, took some
dog manure and put it around Petrel's buttocks. When it was beginning
to grow light, he said, "Wake up, wake up, wake up, brother-in-law,
you have defecated all over your clothes." Petrel got up, looked
at himself, and thought it was true, so he took his blankets and
went outside. Then Raven went over to Petrel's spring, took off
the cover and began drinking. After he had drunk up almost all of
the water, Petrel came in and saw him. Then Raven flew straight
up crying "Ga."
Before he got through the smoke hole, however. Petrel said, "My
spirits up the smoke hole, catch him." So Raven stuck there,
and Petrel put pitchwood on the fire under him so as to make a quantity
of smoke. Raven was white before that time, but the smoke made him
of the color you find him today. Still he did not drop the water.
When the smoke-hole spirits let him go, he flew around the nearest
point and rubbed him- self all over so as to clear off as much of
the soot as possible.
This happened somewhere about the Nass, and afterwards he started
up this way. First he let some water fall from his mouth and made
the Nass. By and by he spit more out and made the Stikine. Next
he spit out Taku river, then Chilkat, then Alsek, and all the other
large rivers. The small drops that came out of his mouth made the
small salmon creeks.
After this Raven went on again and came to a large town where were
people who had never seen daylight. They were out catching eulachon
in the darkness when he came to the bank opposite, and he asked
them to take him across but they would not. Then he said to them,
"If you don't come over I will have daylight break on you."
But they answered, "Where are you from ? Do you come from far
up the Nass where lives the man who has daylight ?"
At this Raven opened his box just a little and shed so great a
light on them that they were nearly thrown down. He shut it quickly,
but they quarreled with him so much across the creek that he became
angry and opened the box completely, when the sun flew up into the
sky. Then those people who had sea-otter or fur-seal skins, or the
skins of any other sea animals, went into the ocean, while those
who had land-otter, bear, or marten skins, or the skins of any other
land animals, went into the woods, becoming the animals whose skins
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