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Legend of the Black & White Raven

Dedication: Dee-Kee-On-Kaw-Woo

The legend of "Black and White Raven" is derived from Tlingit mythology and is recited herein from the interpretation of the Tlingits of Kake, Alaska located on the Kupreanoff Island of Southeastern Alaska.

In the beginning the world that we now know it was encompassed in total darkness, and void of all light. During this time there was an old man who was known as 'grandfather' who lived with his 'granddaughter' in a great 'hit' (house). Grandfather had in his possession, encased in a great chest within his house, the sun, moon, and stars, and also sickness, disease, famine, mosquitos, and other parasites which, if released in the atmosphere would cause great harm to man. So, under no circumstances was the chest to be opened by anyone other than grandfather himself.

In the meantime, Raven in his white spiritual form of the raven, was aware that grandfather had these items in his possession and was particularly interested in the sun which radiated light. Raven immersed himself in great thought as to how he could obtain these items for the world. Each day as he watched the 'hit' (house) he noticed that granddaughter would come out to fetch some water from a nearby stream, and usually began by taking a sip of water before filling her pail.

This intrigued Raven for he began to devise a scheme by which he would disguise himself as a speck of dust to flow down the stream at the time granddaughter scooped up her first drink. This, Raven did, at the time granddaughter scoop[ed her first drink. Raven had managed to flow into her cup and was ultimately swallowed by granddaughter. Nine months later, to the happiness of grandfather, Raven was born by granddaughter in the human form of a boy. This pleased grandfather immensely, and he was very proud of his great-grandson.

As Raven grew older he eventually asked grandfather about the contents of the great chest but grandfather explained that under no circumstances was the chest to be opened by anyone other than himself. As time went by, grandfather instilled much trust in raven to the point of explaining the contents of the chest. Raven eventually started asking grandfather if he could play with the sun and moon and stars to occupy his time, mainly because he had no one else to play with. Each time grandfather became more trusting and let Raven play with these celestial objects, but had always instructed Raven to return them to him to put back into the chest. Otherwise, if someone other than grandfather took out and retained these objects, the famine, disease, sickness, mosquitos and other parasites would be released in the atmosphere to harm man. Eventually, there came a time when Raven was the only one in the house and he thought that the moment to steal the sun, moon and stars was just right, so he immediately changed himself to his true spiritual form of Raven opened the chest and took out all the celestial objects under his wing and at the same time released all the sickness and diseases known to man. He immediately flew to the top of a smoke hole in the great house but because his wings were so full of the celestial objects, he could not get through the smoke hole. In the meantime, grandfather had returned and saw Raven in his true form and realized his deception. He immediately ran to the fire which was located directly below the smoke hole and rekindled the flame which caused a great heat and soot to rise and tarnish the feathers of Raven from White (which was his original color from the beginning) to turn to Black. Raven could hardly breathe from the heat and soot so he let the celestial objects go and managed to escape. Because the sun, moon, and stars had no control they flowed out of the smoke hole and assumed the space in the present positions they now hold.

This is the legend as to how light came to be, why there is sickness and famine and mosquitos today, and how Raven became black.

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