How the Raven Gave Light – Haida Gwaii (Canada)

I cannot remember which year it was, but one of the years I stayed behind on the Queen Charlotte Islands for the fishing derby, I had a chance to talk to one of the natives of Masset (which is part of the Haida Gwaii territory) who was selling Haida paraphernalia at the Masset Airport.  He was of Haida descent, and upon asking him about the significance of the numerous raven figurines – I was aware of the significance of ravens in native American legends, but wanted to know how it fit into the heritage of the indigenous people of Haida Gwaii –  he told me the story of how the raven gave light to the world.

At the beginning of time, the world was consumed by darkness.  The Raven had existed since the beginning of time, and was growing tired of living in the dark.  After some period of time, the Raven came across an old man who lived with his one and only daughter.  The old man had a little box that contained all of the light of the universe, and the Raven decided to steal it from the man and his daughter.  Once the daughter went to the river to gather water, the Raven transformed himself into a fir needle and floated in the the daughter’s basket.  She drank the water, needle included, and the Raven found himself in the stomach of the daughter.  He then changed into a human fetus, and was eventually born as the grandson of the old man.  The Raven convinced the old man to allow him to hold the box of light, but when the old man was handing it over, the Raven transformed to his original form and stole the ball of light in the box.  He escaped the house of the old man, and gave the ball of light to the universe.

I’ve gone to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) every summer since I was 8.  It’s our families annual deep-sea fishing trip, and have met many of Haida people.  There are many Haida natives still living in Masset, which is where the airport is.  I have seen many Haida people in my lifetime, as some even lead tours to show off their many totem poles and historical residences.  I am going back this summer, and who knows, maybe I’ll get my own story.  But once again, we see an animal-centered native story.  And I’ve always thought of the raven as an animal of darkness, but in this case the Raven is a source of light.