03 November 2010

Ch 9, Pt 4: "Nicolai's Raven Story of Creation"

Chapter 9, pt 4: 
  "Nicolai's Raven Story of Creation"

Michael and I quietly talked with each other while Charles drifted off
to sleep. It was getting late for him, but we older brothers were very
excited to be here. We speculated on the meaning of the story we had
heard so far. We talked about going back to school and solemnly promised
each other that we would both try to do well there. We resolved to do
better than our white counterparts, because grandfather expected it of

Finally Nicolai emerged from the lodge looking rested. He silently
resumed his spot between Michael and me at the fire. We had both lost
track of the time and had not been paying attention to the fire, so we
had to work at resurrecting the flames. I reached over and nudged
Charles awake because I did not want him to miss anything. Charles tried
hard to fit in with us older boys and please us both. He seemed grateful
to be woken up, smiling at me weakly but earnestly. Besides, I did not
want the chief to catch any of us napping when he was telling us
something he considered so important. The flames roared back up into a
renewed level of energy. Grandfather was ready.

He looked first at me, then at Charles, and finally at Michael. It was
at this point that I thought how unthinkable it would be for anyone to
sleep or otherwise fail to fully pay attention when Nicolai spoke. I
felt relief that I had been able to wake up Charles before the old man
noticed him sleeping.

As was customary with Nicolai, he continued his story right where he had
left off as if there had been no intervening time. He had an unnerving
habit of carrying on his conversations days and even weeks afterward as
if no time had passed since his last words were spoken.

We had long since learned to pay careful attention to what the old chief
was saying because no one wanted to offend him and risk becoming an
object of his notoriously bad temper. Besides, it seemed clear enough to
all of us in the family and clan that if Nicolai could remember
everything he had said so clearly that he would continue the same
conversation weeks later, it must be truly important. Until I met
Stephen Birch some years later, I had never encountered anyone else who
had this capacity to continue a conversation in that manner while
expecting all parties to act as if no time had passed at all. Both also
had a memory for names and faces which eluded the rest of us.

Schee-ya resumed his tale of the ravens.

The BIG change begins:  Blasting in Woods Canyon --a
few miles south of Taral, view 1

" The ravens discussed
among themselves the increasing boldness of the other birds. If
things continued as they had in that last meeting of all the
birds, the undisputed supremacy of the ravens would be over.

" ' What can we do about these birds who
now are beginning to act as if they are our equals? '
asked one raven of no one in particular.

" '
Clearly only we are the rightful leaders over all Creation.'


" The head raven began to
realize just how dissatisfied the other ravens had become and
also that he would have to find some solution if he was to
retain his own position as head raven.

" ' We cannot turn back time. The other
birds are learning to do their own thinking and that will not
stop on its own. But we can taunt the birds who become too
vocal. That is, we can intimidate them. That is exactly what we
must do. From now on we will use our superior intelligence and
our great numbers to harass the birds who strike out too far. We
will play tricks on them and make them appear as fools to the
other birds. And if we can isolate an independent one from time
to time, we will overpower him and thus deplete their numbers
and hope we can weaken their will to speak or act against us.'

" The ravens were satisfied with this, for being bullies and
wise guys was something that was in their nature and which would
provide them with considerable amusement. Besides they no longer
had to take the awesome responsibility for all of Creation,
which was now about to reveal itself to be much greater than
anyone could have ever imagined. And so it is to this day that
the raven has become a pest and a bully among all the birds.


" The large floating
island to the south was drawing closer. No one had realized how
huge it was. Nor had the whales given any real thought as to
what would happen when the one island actually met the other.
The whales simply gave the large island a push from time to time
to ensure that it continued to move toward the north as the head
seagull, who spoke for the ravens, had asked.

As this huge piece of land came into view of the home of the
birds, all the birds were alarmed. It was far larger and much
more rugged, and the mountains on it were much taller, than
anyone had ever believed was possible. The head raven took some
of his number and flew toward this large floating mass.

" ' We must find a way to stop this island
before it strikes us, for it will be like running over a small
pebble with a boulder, '
shrieked the head raven to
the head seagull.

" ' You
must tell the whales to stop what they are doing--now ! '


Blasting in upper Woods Canyon just south of Eskilida's
Camp--and Taral. 

" With the
panicked words of the raven, the seagull was dispatched to give
the new instructions to the whales. But the larger island
continued to move toward the smaller one. When the head seagull
returned, he brought the bad news.

" ' The whales say that they cannot stop
the big island, for it is moving toward us as if it is strongly
attracted to our land. It will not stop! '

" The Great Creator had been watching all of this with
considerable interest and even amusement from his place high
above Tall Peak, well out of view of his creatures. The head
seagull never understood that while he thought he was talking to
the great head whale, he was actually talking directly to the
Great Creator. For the Creator can comfortably move from one
creature to another, assuming their form with no one the wiser.
The Creator takes great satisfaction in viewing his own endless
domain through the eyes of his own creatures, for this is the
main way in which he amuses himself.

" He had already decided that the two islands would be joined
despite the best efforts of any of the creatures to the
contrary, for it met his overall purposes that this should

" No one thought to ask for help from the Great Creator. He
might have at least considered changing his plans. As was all
too often the case, no one asked for help until it was already
too late. So the island from the south just kept appearing ever
larger and larger to the panicked birds. It was really moving
very slowly, but it was not stopping nor was it altering its
course. It was instead heading relentlessly in a direct line for
the smaller island which was the land of the ravens and the
other birds. This was one of those times when the Great Creator
would shake up this world through very large events which
rearrange everything.

MP 132 bridge out
Natural forces take out the Copper River &
Northwestern Railway trestle at MP 132 with a late-summer flood 
--McCarthy-Kennicott Museum

" All the birds of the
island had become alarmed and took to the air, frantically
circling above as they hopelessly watched the inevitable events
unfold. At least the ones who took to the air could survive the
coming impact. But their nests which held the unhatched eggs and
the very young, as well as all the others who stayed behind on
the ground were threatened with disaster.

" The larger island was nearly on top of the smaller one when
the ravens and the other birds finally thought to ask for help
from the Great Creator. But their desperate shrieking went
unanswered. The mountains of the large island towered well over
everything on the island of the birds. On the other side of this
tall and forbidding ridge and still out of sight were all the
creatures of the larger island.

" They realized that some
kind of big change was occurring, for it was getting much
colder. Many of the animals moved to dens and other safe places
high up where it was warmer. This was indeed fortunate, for it
was this action which saved many of the large creatures from the
force of the impact which was now inevitable.

" When the big island of the large animals of the south slid
into the northern island of the birds it dug under the shelf of
the smaller island, forcing the smaller island to tip into the
air violently. As the lands collided, the force caused the
mountains of both islands to burst into flames. This began a
long period of eruptions of fire and ashes and hot rock and

" At the same time the
Great Waters backed off from the small island, then rushed into
it, causing the low lands to flood. Waters rushed high up the
sides of the hills and mountains, completing the violent
destruction at the higher level. The lowlands of both islands
  remained flooded for a very long time."

1965 USGS photo of the aerial tram that
used to cross the Copper River near Taral, clearly demonstrating
the quiet but massive influence of the sleeping giant Mt

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