There are many ways to portray the story of Raven and the light. Sometimes the light is the sun and other times the moon. On a deeper level, the light represents the first consciousness of human thought. In one version, Raven was originally white. He schemed to get a great ball of light which an old, ill-humoured chief possessed. The daughter of this chief drank regularly from a certain well of cold clear water, so Raven changed himself into a pine needle, which she drank along with her water. In due course, Raven, in the form of a small boy, was born to this woman.
Like all small grandsons, he won the old man’s heart, simply by being young, mischievous and full of life. This suited Raven, since he was naturally self-centered, loud and mischievous. Raven pretended that he wanted to play with the light, and like the spoiled rotten child he was, he yelled, screamed and cried until the old man let him play with it.
Suddenly, Raven transformed into his true form and, snatching the ball of light in his beak, flew out through the smoke hole. He turned black from the soot and smoke. The ball of light was too heavy to fly with, so he ran through the forest. Just as the old man was about to catch him, Raven threw the ball of light into the sky. The old man could only watch as his greatest treasure astonished the creatures of the world with the gift of light.
Lyle Wilson is a Haisla artist from Kitamaat village, which is near the town site of Kitamaat, British Columbia, Canada. The Haisla tribe is often referred to as Northern Kwakiutl, however, their historic artistic style has influences from various sources — notably Kwakiutl and Tsimshian, as well as developing distinctive qualities of their own. The name Kitamaat means “People of the Snow” and refers to the large amount of snow received by this region. Tsimshian people visiting the Haisla people in mid-winter arrived to see people emerging from longhouses completely buried by the snow so the name Kitamaat seemed an appropriate description.
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