White Raven

From the Introduction by Nicole Stanbridge in the exhibition book for Urban Thunderbirds / Ravens in a Material World:

"...As the exchange of ideas between lessLIE and Rande Cook became more concrete, the title 'Urban Thunderbirds' was proposed by lessLIE. The many connotations suggested by the title allowed for the discussion of cultural appropriation, Coast Salish mythology and tradition, and the consumerism of urban culture. In 'Ravens in a Material World', Rande Cook also wanted to address issues related to urban consumer culture but, further to that, he saw this part of the exhibition taking on personal narratives more directly. The Raven, in Kwakwaka'wakw tradition, brought the light to the people. Cook sees this also as the role of the artist. In both parts of the exhibition - in the art of lessLIE and Dylan Thomas (Urban Thunderbirds), Rande Cook and Francis Dick (Ravens in a Material World) - personal concerns that are expressed and articulated in the work extend into commentary on current events and issues that affect not only members of First Nations communities, but all of us as inhabitants of this country."

I have heard and read many variations on How Raven Stole the Sun over the years....and it is just a luscious and gorgeous story in all its variations. In my recent search this is what I have to share:

From a blog (www.magma.ca/~jbremner/blog/months/RavenStealsSun.htm)

- Raven Steals the Sun

 According to a Haida story, in the beginning the world was in total darkness. The Raven, who had existed from the beginning of time, was tired of groping about and bumping into things in the dark. Eventually the Raven came upon the home of an old man who lived alone with his daughter. Through his slyness, the Raven learned that the old man had a great treasure. This was all the light in the universe, contained in a tiny box concealed within many boxes.

At once the Raven vowed to steal the light.

He thought and thought, and finally came up with a plan. He waited until the old man's daughter came to the river to gather water. Then the Raven changed himself into a single hemlock needle and dropped himself into the river, just as the girl was dipping her water-basket into the river.

As she drank from the basket, she swallowed the needle. It slipped and slithered down into her warm belly, where the Raven transformed himself again, this time into a tiny human. After sleeping and growing there for a very long time, at last the Raven emerged into the world once more, this time as a human infant.

Even though he had a rather strange appearance, the Raven's grandfather loved him. But the old man threatened dire punishment if he ever touched the precious treasure box. Nonetheless the Ravenchild begged and begged to be allowed to hold the light just for a moment.

In time the old man yielded, and lifted from the box a warm and glowing sphere, which he threw to his grandson.

As the light was moving toward him, the human child transformed into a gigantic black shadowy bird-form, wings spread ready for flight, and beak open in anticipation. As the beautiful ball of light reached him, the Raven captured it in his beak! Moving his powerful wings, he burst through the smokehole in the roof of the house, and escaped into the darkness with his stolen treasure.

And that is how light came into the universe.

This story was told to me, with wonderful effects, one summer in the Great Hall of the Museum of Civilisation in a performance called People of the Salmon

- Additional aspects of the story are told in Stories From Alaska and the Northwest Coast:

The world was instantly changed forever. Mountains sprang into the bright sky and reflections danced on the rivers and oceans. Far away, the Eagle was awakened and launched skyward - his target now clearly in sight.

Raven was so caught up in all the excitement of the newly revealed world that he nearly didn't see the Eagle bearing down on him. Swerving sharply to escape the outstretched talons, he dropped nearly half of the ball of light which fell to the earth. Shattering into one large and many small pieces on the rocky ground the bits of light bounced back up into the heavens where they remain to this day as the moon and the stars.

The Eagle pursued Raven beyond the rim of the world and exhausted by the long chase, Raven let go of what light still remained. Floating gracefully above the the clouds, the sun as we now know it started up over the mountains to the east.

The first rays of the morning sun brought light through the smokehole of the old man's house. He was weeping in sorrow over his great loss and looking up, saw his daughter for the first time. She was very beautiful and smiling, he began to feel a little better.

- The Story of the White Raven is told in the same vein on the website of a Legal firm with the name White Raven:

Our logo draws upon a fundamental oral history from the Northwest coast in which Ravenbrings light to the world. Raven is a cultural hero who brings about the earth as we know it through a series of events, tricks and accidents that have come to be called "Raven traveling"stories. This legend tells of the time a long, long, time ago, when human beings first occupied the earth and it was dark, completely without light. At this time, Raven was white. All of thesupernatural beings asked Raven to obtain the light for the earth, which a Chief kept in a fine, old growth cedar bentwood box. Raven transformed himself into a grandchild born into theChief's family. He quickly grew as a child and eventually cajoled the light from his grandfather.When he secured the light he took it and flew through the smoke hole in the longhouse, and in doing so became black. We chose the white raven logo because it represents Raven in his purest form, sacrificing to bring light to the world for the betterment of all of humanity.