Native American Legends
Raven Fools Crow
An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown
Raven used to live high up in the upper Skagit River country. He
was very lazy. In the summer when the other animals were busy gathering
food for winter, he would be flying from rock to stump and stump
to rock making fun of them. Raven just laughed when Crow (his cousin)
urged him to follow Squirrel's example but Raven never prepared
for the cold months, when the snow would drift over the ground and
cover all the remaining food.
But now Raven was in trouble. Winter had come and the snows were
deep. He was hungry and Raven loved to eat. He had to find someone
who would share their food with him.
Raven went to see Squirrel. He had a huge supply of pine nuts and
seeds and other food hidden all over the place. Raven poked his
head in squirrel's nest in a old fir tree. Squirrel had lots to
eat. Raven politely begged for some food. Squirrel scolded him that
was always Squirrel's way "You refused to work and save for
winter and you poked much fun at me, you deserve to starve!"
Raven went looking for Bear. But Bear was sound asleep in his cave
and could not be wakened. Raven looked around for some food, but
it was all in Bear's belly. Bear had already eaten it all and was
sleeping till spring.
Raven was now very hungry. He thought: "Who can give me something
to eat? Everyone is either stingy like Squirrel or sleeping like
Bear and Marmot, or they have gone South for winter like the snow
birds." Then he thought of Crow he would be easy to fool!
Raven flew to Crow's nest. "Cousin Crow, we must talk about
your coming potlatch!" Crow answered. "I have not planned
Raven ignored his response. "Crow, everyone is talking about
your potlatch will you sing at it?" "Sing?" Crow
had not known that anybody really cared for his singing voice, though
in those days, Crow's song was much more like that of Wood Thrush
than it is today.
Raven continued to talk of Crow's potlatch. "You are very
talented and possess a beautiful voice - everyone will be so disappointed
if you don't sing at your potlatch!"
"What potlatch? .... You really like my singing?"
"We love your singing, Crow," Raven answered. "The
Winter's cold has chilled the forest and we're cold and hungry and
singing will help us forget our cold feet and empty stomachs. Now
you get started fixing the food, looks like you have plenty here
and I will go invite the guests to your potlatch. You can practice
your songs as you cook!"
Crow's hesitation now overcome, he began to prepare all the food
he had collected for winter, and as he prepared it, he practiced
his songs. The more he thought the feast and how everyone wanted
to hear him sing, the more excited he got about it.
Meanwhile Raven was offering invitations to all the animals of
the forest. (Of course Marmot and Beaver were sleeping like Bear,
and Robin and Goose were gone South) To each he said the same thing:
"Come to My potlatch! I have worked hard to prepare it. There
will be much food at Raven's potlatch and Crow is helping and will
sing for us. There will be fern roots and wild potatoes, dried berries,
fish and meat. Come to My potlatch! It will be a great occasion."
Raven did not invite Squirrel however since he had refused to share
his food with Raven. But all the rest of the animals were invited
to Raven's Potlatch.
When he returned to Crow - he was busy singing and cooking. Raven
told him, "Everyone is coming - be sure and fix all your food,
they will be hungry after their journey. And your songs are sounding
so good! Crow's potlatch will be a great feast!"
As the guest arrived, Raven welcomed each one to his potlatch.
There was Deer and Mountain Goat and Mouse, Rabbit, Ptarmigan and
Jay. The guests were seated and the food was brought out. Crow started
to sit and eat, but Raven asked him for a song first. "It's
not good to sing on a full stomach, Crow".
So Crow began to sing. Every time he would stop to eat - Raven
would insist he sing another song. "You can't sing with your
mouth full, Crow!" Encouraged again and again by the guests
who were busy stuffing themselves with Crow's food. Crow sang song
after song after song all day until night and Crow's voice became
hoarser and hoarser until all he could do was "Caw - caw".
As was the custom - the left over food was collected by the guests
and taken by them for their homeward journey. Even Raven had taken
his share and left as Crow was cleaning up. Crow had nothing left
to eat. " At least," Crow thought, "I won't go hungry,
I will be invited to their feasts." For it was the custom that
having been entertained, each guest was now obliged to return the
favor and invite the host for a return potlatch.
But the invitations never came. Since all the guests thought it
was Raven who hosted the feast, Raven was invited to enough dinners
to keep his stomach full for several winters and he never went hungry.
But Crow, who had been fooled, had been reduced to starving, and
never regained his singing voice either. He was destined to spend
his winters begging in the camps of men for scraps of food. And
that's where we find him today, squabbling over scraps in grocery
store parking lots.
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