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Section title: Haida
Introduction | History |  Daily Life | Culture | References


History

Creation Story

One of the most famous stories that the Haida tell is the story of Raven. The story begins during a time when there was only water and the sky above. There was no earth, only a single reef that came out of the water. A reef is a chain of rocks close to the surface of the water or sticking out of it. All of the great beings lived on top of this reef. The greatest of the beings lived on highest point of the reef. Next to him were all the others stretched in a row. Finally at the end was the weakest of the great beings. The great flying being, Raven, flew above but couldn't find a place to land. He decided that he would travel to the sky country instead.

 
  The Raven and the First Men, cedar sculpture by Bill Reid

In the sky country, there was a town that was set up in five rows. In the town, the chief's daughter had a baby. During the night, Raven entered the chief's house, scooped the baby out of its skin and took its place, becoming Raven Child. Then Raven Child began to get hungry, so he took an eye from everyone in the first row of the village and ate them all. He did this for four more nights with each of the other rows in the village. A woman made of stone saw everything that was happening, and she told the sky people about it. The chief of the town called everyone together and sang a song for Raven Child. One of the people was holding Raven Child in his cradle and dropped him. He fell down though the sky and drifted on the water.

Suddenly Raven Child heard a voice say, "Your grandfather is going to let you in." He stepped out onto a two-headed totem pole made of stone and he found he could climb up and down it. He climbed down and found a house at the bottom. He entered the house and found a man that looked like a seagull. The man said to Raven Child, "Put this speckled stone in the water first and the black one next. After you do this, bite off a piece of each and spit it out. You will see them unite and become one." Raven Child did as he was told. When the two pieces came together they began to appear as trees. He put them in the water and they stretched and became the land called Haida Gwaii.

After this, Raven Child was able to make many things. When the great waters had gone down, Raven Child summoned four groups of human beings. One of the groups of human beings was the Haida.

We learn from this oral tradition that the Haida believe in a world that lives above them, an earth world in the middle, and a world below the earth. The story also tells us that the trees and land are sacred to the Haida. The Raven is also sacred. He is a trickster who is greedy and mischievous, but who also teaches humans how to live a good life. The Raven has supernatural powers and uses them to obtain important things for humans. He stole the sun, moon and stars for humans, as well as giving them fresh water, salmon and fire. When the Haida look at their country, they understand the story of Raven. His creation is all around them.

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