03 November 2010

Ch 9, conclusion to "Nicolai's Raven Story of Creation"

Chapter 9: 
"Nicolai's Raven Story of Creation," pt 5-final

" No creature could have
imagined the true violent nature of Creation as it was displayed
in those days of the flooding and eruptions and earth shakings.
The homes of almost all the creatures and the lives of many,
including the young and the innocent, were lost because all had
assumed that life would continue as it always had with no great

" What was even worse, few of the creatures knew of the
existence or the power of the Great Creator. Of those who did,
none thought to ask for His help until it was too late.

" With the old world destroyed, flooded and broken up--and with
the mountains still shaking and spewing fire and smoke and ashes
angrily into the skies, choking the birds above as well as the
creatures below, the head raven accompanied by many of his
fellow birds finally flew up to Tall Peak to plead with the
Great Creator. They wanted the disaster to at least stop

Early USGS photo of Mt.
Wrangell, K'elt'aeni "the one who controls the weather", also
"Uk'eledi "the one with smoke on it"

" ' Why have you forgotten me?"  
asked the Great

" ' I have
given you complete rule over my creation long enough. Now you
will teach my new creatures whom I will create out of all this
destruction to learn how to live here. You will teach them
everything that you know. Especially you will teach them the
lesson that I am not to be ignored.


" 'For I can become easily angered. I can always rearrange Creation
again, as I have just done. You will talk to my new creatures,
whom you will know as the Children of the Earth. It will be up
to them to protect all of Creation--the lands and the great
waters and the rivers, together with all my creatures which
inhabit them. You will know that if you fail to teach them this
important lesson they may destroy you.'

" ' But if they destroy you, they will
also destroy themselves. For this is the promise that I make to
you now. The first of my children which will arrive here I will
name the Raven Clan in your honor. For I love all my creatures
including you who have forgotten me. It will fall to them to see
that Creation is always protected from the foolishness of my
other children. You will help them to understand that if they
fail in this, I will once again be upset. And you do not want to
see me upset again. The greatest lesson of all is this, that I
will not be ignored nor forgotten. For I am always among you. If
you remember who I am and ask of me what you require, I will
provide it just as you ask. Never forget the lesson you have
learned this day.' "

Grandfather looked away from the flames, turning his attention to each
of us as the fire continued to burn even higher.

“I have not told you this story
just to pass the time. This is the story of your Raven Clan--the Saghani
utsuuy. That is who we are. We are the chosen ones.

“The white man has come to take his precious metals from the earth. He
cares nothing for this land--nor for us. He will take his precious
metals, upset the earth, and then he will leave. We have no use for his
treasures, nor for him. Nor should we. Soon we will have our land back
and be able to live in peace as before.

“You must never forget who you are, who your people are, or where you
came from. Even as you learn the new and strange ways of the white
man--and you must be a good student of him and his ways--you are one of
us, and you will always be one of us. Sometimes you will doubt yourself,
and it is important in those times that you remember what has happened
here tonight.”

Spirit Mtn
Spirit Mountain south of Taral  
-USGS photo

Nicolai had finished speaking. He looked up toward the shimmering,
brilliant Yay-kaas which were beginning to light up the entire sky with
a true dance of nature. He picked up the animal skin drum resting near
his side and began a loud rhythmic beat accompanied by his remarkably
clear and strong chanting voice as he broke into one of our ageless
spirit songs.

The three of us skeel’eh had danced many times to this particularly
lively song which reminded us of the old ways of generations of our
forefathers. It was a part of our potlatch ceremony--the gathering which
binds all Indians together as the true Children of the Earth.

As our voices joined with that of the old chief, the campfire
intensified. The old ghostly lodges around us--deserted for so many
seasons now--appeared to come to life with the spirits of the people of
our distant past. The sounds of many voices, long unheard and forgotten,
joined in with the chief in this last great song of an era passing into

For Nicolai, the last great chief and shaman, spoke not just for our
people now living, but for all our Indian brothers--and for the spirits
of the people who had lived their lives and had died and been buried
here. These were the spirits Nicolai was preparing to join. Tonight we
could feel the true spiritual power of these, our ancestors. And we were
not afraid. For now we all felt the true power of what being an Ahtna
really meant.

Chief Skolai Nicolai's Taral  --Candy
Waugaman Collection

Across the river at Eskilida’s camp the lone fire we had seen earlier
had gone out. The many lights near Chitina and Haley Creek camp also
dimmed until everything beyond Taral was completely dark except the
white-capped mountain tops which were illuminated by the light of the
cold, full moon.

The rest of the world had become insignificant under the night skies
highlighted by the spectacular dancing yay-koss, which in turn mirrored
our own dance on the ancient, traditional spirit grounds of Taral. Even
the roaring of the great river was muted by the intense sounds of the
chanting of three very young men singing with all their power, one great
elder of a dying generation pounding rhythmically and loudly on his
animal skin drum, and the spirits of a multitude of ancients--all
engaged in one delightful and intensely exciting dance of the spirits
from another time--a dance which would continue to reverberate up the
valleys of the Chitina and the Copper Rivers through the ages, echoing
forever the sounds of a people who would never leave the land in the
shadow of the Uk’eledi.


Chief Goodlataw

Chief Goodlataw of Taral & Chittyna

Continue with  Chapter 10, "Abercrombie Rapids Landing"

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