Long ago when the Earth was new and smooth like an egg, Flood Tide
Woman (She Who Is the Moon) said to her son Raven, "You must go
down to the Earth to make a place for the waters."
So Raven spread his wide black wings and flew down to the young
Earth, and with his huge claws and gigantic beak he gouged out
great basins. He piled the boulders to the sides to form
mountains. Then with his tail, Raven began to sweep, creating
sandy beds for the waters to lie in. As he swept he spun, and
as he spun the wind swirled, and the whirlwinds brought rain,
and the rain filled the basins, and there were oceans.
Flood Tide Woman turned to Looking Downward (He Who Is the Sun),
father of Raven, and she said, "Look, our son has done well."
Looking Downward smiled, and the smile streamed onto the world
in a rainbow of colors, and he said, "What will you paint, my
Raven plucked a downy feather from under his wing, looked at the
glowing colors, and answered, "First I shall paint the sky."
Carefully, Raven began to paint. The first sections he painted
slowly, using colors as pale and delicate as the insides of shells.
But soon he began splashing about with the hottest, firiest colors
in his palette.
Then Raven had an idea. He dragged a claw through the wet sky-colors,
setting them swirling until clouds appeared like white foam.
Next I shall paint the rocks," Raven said, and soft green mosses began
to appear. But in some places where the sky-colors had dripped, the
rocks were stained red and orange like the sunset. "I like that!"
Pleased with himself, Raven shook out his feather-brush.
Droplets of color fell upon the green moss, took root, and became
flowers. "Indeed you have done very well, my son!" said Looking
But Raven grew lonely. So from riverbanks he gathered clay,
shaping it very carefully, and created the First Ones. He divided
them into many tribes, gave them language, and provided dwelling
places in the land.
After countless suns and summers and seasons, the First Ones grew
bone-weary. Their weariness grew and grew until they became too
tired to sleep. Sleep, when it did come, brought no rest. They
slept less and less, aged more and more.
"We must go North to the Place of Beginnings," Raven told his friends.
"It may be that renewal awaits us there." So they began their long
Now the First Ones were bent with age like ancient trees. They
traveled slowly, limping painfully along cold beaches and through
The air grew colder, but they gathered their blankets more tightly
and struggled on across snow-covered glaciers, inching their way
across crystal bridges in blue caves of ice.
Beyond the mountainous glaciers they came at last to the place
where Raven had set the sky-colors in motion. His claw-marks
still shimmered and flickered in the night sky above them.
"This is the Place of Beginnings," Raven whispered, "Do you
remember it?" The First Ones looked about, and a dim memory
stirred within them. They nodded silently, and they stood
for a long time.
People who were living close by stole out from their lodges and
approached warily, overcome at the awesome sight of beings whose
adventures and exploits were known from ancient legends.
"Help us!" the First Ones begged, "for we are tired to death."
So the people wrapped the Old Ones in many blankets and gave
them food and a place by the fire. Eagerly they waited to hear
the stories these Ones would tell!
But instead, Raven whispered,"Build a burial box. Here, in
this Place of Beginnings, all stories must come to an end."
Tenderly they tucked the ancient heroes into the burial box.
Grief fell like the snow and blanketed the people.
But Raven said, "Do not mourn for them. The painter lays down one
brush in order to paint with a new color, but the first color does not
disappear. Dance and tell stories of their deeds, for stories have
more power than you know."
And the people danced through the winter night, singing and telling
tales of the First Ones. One night passed, then another, and
still more long nights.
Then the box opened. The long winter and its tales had ended.
The First Ones rubbed their eyes and blinked up at their old
friend Raven! "Come and be washed," Raven called to them, and
they ran out into the renewing rain like children. They were
young again and full of life!
And from that time on our Ancestors, honoring the First Ones,
continued in this way. When they grew tired and the year
grew old, when the leaves withered and the spirit world
beckoned from just beyond the firelight, they wrapped
themselves in blankets and lay unstirring while their tribes
danced and told many tales. Night after winter night passed...
...Until one night their sleep ended and they went to Raven.
Send us rain to wash the sleep from our eyes," they said.
And Raven washed them, and they were young again.
Yet after many suns and moons and seasons and sleeps, some
of the Ancestors grew weary of so much waking and sleeping,
of so many tales told, and the memory of so many deeds.
They said to Raven,"We do not want to be young again..."
And Raven changed them. Some became the animals of the
mountains and the forests -- the grey Wolf and the waddling
Beaver, the Kit Fox and the scolding Squirrel.
Others became swift Seagulls, the Merganser and the
Willow Ptarmigan, the Snowy Owl and the Sparrowhawk --
all the birds of the air.
Some he transformed into the great Whales, the sleek
Seals, the shimmering Fish and singing Frogs -- all the
animals of the oceans and rivers.
And one day, when Raven returned to the sky, some of the
Ancestors followed. You can see them still along the
trail he took -- bright stars and fiery meteors --
dancing across the night.