EXHIBITION:Birds of a Feather
In Northwest Coast mythology, the Raven is the transformer, trickster and creator. Known in legends as the one who released the sun, moon, and stars; discovered man in a clamshell; brought the salmon and the water; and taught man how to fish and hunt.
Raven is famous for being a somewhat mischievous glutton. He was always out to please himself and have a good time, but his adventures always ended up bettering mankind.
The story of “Raven Steals the Light” is legendary. A Chief lived on the bank of a river with his only child – a daughter. At this time, it was pitch black everywhere and no one could see anything. Thus begins the tale of the Raven and the Light. It’s said that this particular Chief possessed the Sun and all the light in the universe locked inside a beautiful bentwood box. Nobody was to ever touch this box or even get near enough to see it, and the Chief stationed guards around it at all times.
The Raven was not satisfied with the state of darkness since it led to his blundering and bumping into everything. This slowed him down in his pursuit of the good things in life, which was what he loved more than getting into mischief. One day he learned of the Chief who owned all the light stowed away and protected. He decided he wanted the light for himself, so he waited for the daughter to leave the house one day to drink at the river. He transformed himself into a pine needle to slip into the bucket of water. When the daughter drank the water and swallowed the pine needle, the Raven transformed himself into a tiny human being inside her. When he emerged, he was a very odd-looking child, but it was too dark to notice his long nose and the few feathers still clinging to him, which at this time were still white.
One day, as the boy gained the affection of the Chief, he asked to look inside the chest that held the Chief’s most prized possession. Upon being refused, he waited for the day when the Chief hosted a big potlatch when there was lots of eating and drinking, by everyone including the guards of the box. The young boy asked his grandfather again if he could see what was inside. The Chief, being more lenient on this particular evening, said he could not look inside but could get close enough to look at the beautiful box. The boy, knowing the guards had been eating and drinking, knew this was his chance. The guards’ heads were nodding ever so slightly, so the boy opened the lid and a strange radiance began to suffuse the room. At that moment the Child transformed (back) into a huge Raven. He snapped up the sun, moon, and stars into his beak and flew up through the smoke hole of the house. It is most notable that the Raven was no longer white, but was now instead black from the soot that got on his feathers as he flew through the smoke hole…