03 November 2010

Chapter 9, Pt 3: 
  Nicolai's Raven Story of Creation, 

Raven feeding Elijah

'" Events had forced some
sort of change and the raven felt trapped. The winds which came
from the angry Great Creator had helped to make the point.
Things were clearly changing in a world that the ravens had
assumed would always be the same. So the head raven, who was no
fool, begged to be excused from the presence of the Creator so
he could meet with the other birds. He called together all the
bird creatures to discuss his meeting with the Great Spirit.

" ' I have
looked at this problem, and this is like no other which we have
faced. The Great Creator is bored and is looking for change. No
matter what we say or do, he will make big changes which could
destroy our whole way of life unless we change as well,
exclaimed the head raven.'

" ' I
believe he is going to bring new creatures to our land which are
much more like himself so he will not be so bored. He thinks
that no creatures should have all the answers, even though we
have all lived in the same world which has acted in the same way
for as long as any of us can remember.'

" ' These
new creatures will probably not be very much like us, so we will
have to learn to live with them--and teach them how to live with

" The head raven could see the
same alarm which he had himself felt in the eyes of the other
birds. He deemed it necessary to add these words:

" ' So let
us try to please the Great Spirit and do what he asks of us. If
we must live with strange new creatures we certainly need more
land, said the head owl. We know now that there is more land. No
one seems to live there, so maybe we can use it. But we will
need the help of the large creatures of the Great Waters if we
are to move that land any closer to our own.'

" Now the head seagull

" ' I
believe I know who those large creatures are, for even though
the young seagull who spotted them did not recognize them, I
know them as the great whales. They sometimes journey close to
our own land, but we have never made them welcome here, so they
have mostly stayed out of sight to the south of us. Perhaps it
is time to recognize that we my need them by inviting them to
live closer to our own land.'

" ' What we need to do, ' suggested the head eagle, '
is ask the great whales to push the distant floating land toward
us, so that it can become a part of our own island. We will need
to tell them that in this way there will be enough land for
everyone including the whales to gather and to hunt.'

" All this time the head
raven was listening to this discussion among the birds and
thinking to himself:

" 'All these ages we ravens have been
doing all the thinking for everyone. Now look what the Creator
has done! Everyone is thinking for himself. Soon the birds will
realize that we are really all equal. Our world is truly
changing and I wish it was the way it was before.'

" But the raven kept his
silence. He would only speak his concerns with his fellow ravens
in the hope that the other birds would not realize how much the
world had changed and how little control the ravens would now
have over the new world. But he silently recognized what the
Great Creator had done, and he kept his peace among the other
creatures. He knew things would never be the same.

north Childs Glacier

Lt. Henry Allen's drawing of the northern part of Childs Glacier, CRNW 
MP 49

" The other ravens were
looking to the head raven for guidance. They all held similar
thoughts, but no one wanted to admit what they feared out loud.
Except among themselves the ravens would never speak of their
fears to the other creatures. Not ever. Instead, the ravens
decided among themselves that they would find a way to make the
best of a world that they could only partly control. They would
begin to learn how to survive in the land only the Great Creator
could claim to possess all over again.

" Among the great bird
gathering there was considerable excitement, for many of the
birds knew to trust the judgment of the head seagull and the
great owl and the head eagle because they seemed to have a plan
that would work. It would be left to the head seagull to
approach the whales and make the arrangements.

" So it would be. The
great whales were only too happy to make their new home in the
north. For the south was nice, but the whales liked the north
better and had only been waiting for the opportunity to become a
part of the land which for so long had been dominated by the


Creation Story

" The whales decided among
themselves not to tell the birds about the creatures which they
knew inhabited the large floating island, for if the birds knew
about the bears, the wolves, the foxes, the moose, and the
others, they might change their minds. It was not, after all,
the fault of the whales that the seagulls had not bothered to
properly scout the island or that the birds had not sent any
other scouting parties to better see what was there.

" Nor would the whales
consult these same great creatures of the floating island who
would soon have their home moved far to the north. For these
land creatures had not made their peace with the whales either.
The whales could see no reason to create an endless argument.


" So it was that on a day
many ages ago the whales all got together and began pushing the
large floating island in the south in the direction of the
birds’ home well toward the far north. It was a great distance
and it appeared that it would take a great amount of effort to
move the island. Except that the whales discovered that once
they gave the island a good push it continued heading north on
its own. In fact once they got it moving, there was no way to
stop it or control it, for the island was now on its way, as it
was meant to be, under the watchful eye of the Great Creator. "

Grandfather looked up at the dancing yaw-koss
overhead. He paused in his story. The weariness of all those years of
heavy responsibility was beginning to show. I realized at that moment
how valuable this time was that we were so privileged to share with
Nicolai. He had chosen the three of us young grandsons to listen to his
fable which told us so much about ourselves. He pulled the robe closely
around himself and stood up somewhat unsteadily.

“I must rest now. Enjoy the legacy which is yours on this night. For the
lights in the dark skies are dancing for you in a way which I have
seldom seen.”

The three of us had become so engrossed in the Raven Story that we had
not been paying any attention to what was happening around us. The yaw-koss
was moving in a dreamy floating motion in shimmering hues of red, green,
and white across the entire sky. Then a bright shooting star appeared
and quickly vanished in the direction of Spirit Mountain. It could
hardly be a coincidence. I looked at Michael, who returned a stare of
wonderment to me. Little brother Charlie was completely entranced, his
mouth dropping open as he viewed this natural fiery light display.

Nicolai quietly arose, turned around and vanished into the lodge behind
us. For the moment at least, the three of us skeel-eh were now alone to
contemplate the wonders which surrounded Nicolai. The constant roar of
the mighty Copper River was once again noticeable while at the same time
we could hear the gurgle of the nearby creek where we had cooled off
from our sezel. The light breeze from somewhere across the darkness in
the direction of the river seemed to carry with it hollow sound of a
distant train whistle.

Woods Canyon

Lt. Allen's
interpretation of Woods Canyon

This was the first steam train whistle we had ever
heard. It sounded more ghostly or spirit-like than real.

Spirit Mountain, with its fresh load of snow, stood out starkly in the
moonlight and appeared to give an evil stare in our direction. None of
us Natives ever ventures alone too close to this peak. We have a deep
rooted, superstitious fear of the mountain. I had never heard the story
behind the place, but it was in guarded whispers that we learned of evil
spirits which were said to continuously patrol the area. We would have
felt vulnerable at the spirit camp of Taral except for the reassuring
presence of Nicolai, who we believed had strong contacts in the
spiritual realm.

Steamers at Canyon Creek
The three
construction-era steamers parked at "Canyon Creek," CRNW mile
124, now known as "Haley Creek." This is just downriver from
Taral and on the west bank.  This was the location of one
of the construction camps at the time this story was being told.
From here a steam whistle blast possibly could have been heard
in Taral. --UAF, Copper River RR SE Alaska 99-290-11

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