Tlingit Art Daily Sketch Jan 11
Raven as Human
In our Tlingit stories, Raven has a dual personality; he is a trickster and he is also a benefactor. He went around transforming the world in very early times. He brought light, water, and other necessities that made life easier. This was usually done through devious means, tricking the owners who had exclusive access to these things. I refer to Raven many times in my poem “Saginaw Bay: I Keep Going Back.”
It is hard to put the Raven stories in chronological order. My own guess is that the “early times” when the world was young refers to the last post-glacial period, and after the Great Flood that drove coastal Natives inland. How strange the world must’ve looked when, after the flood waters receded, our people were able to follow the major rivers back to our coastal homelands.
It was at the head of one of these major rivers, the Nass River in British Columbia, that a wealthy chief possessed boxes that contained the stars, the moon, and the sun lived with his daughter. This is also the first (I believe) account of Raven transforming himself into human form. He did this by turning himself into a hemlock needle which the chief’s daughter swallowed in some drinking water. She became pregnant as a result, and Raven was born. Listen to the story:
Before light was released, the world was very dim and all the creatures appeared the same. When light was released, the forest creatures fled to the woods, the sea creatures to the ocean, and the sky creatures to the air. They began to assume the bodily appearances that we see them as today, yet when we draw our Tlingit designs, we often give humanoid features to animals, and animal features to humans.
That’s what I worked into my daily sketch this morning. As with my other daily sketches, it’s intended only to be a possible springboard for further development.
Daily sketches don’t have to be masterpieces, and there is such a plethora of ideas in our stories.