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Alaskan Mythology

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The Tlingit Tribe in Alaska has many myths, one in particular about the origins of freshwater and how the Raven got its black color:

In the long time ago, when animals could speak and people had not yet been created, Raven ruled the world. Back then Raven was as white as snow. He was not black like he is now. One day Raven saw a stranger standing on the shore while he was flying along the sea. He landed and spoke to him. “Who are you” he asked. “I have never seen you before.” “I am Ganook,” replied the stranger. “Where did you come from?” asked the Raven. “I have always been here, without beginning or end,” said Ganook. Thereafter, Ganook invited his white feathered brother to join him at his great house for a feast. Inside the house was a large stone box with a lid upon which Ganook slept at night. Inside was the only fresh water in the world. Ganook shared some with Raven, and the greedy bird could not get enough of it because it tasted so good. He was used to drinking only sea water. After the feast, Raven began to tell stories of his adventures. He told many tales, and soon Ganook fell asleep on the stone box lid. The deceitful Raven, ever the trickster, thought quickly and decided to steal some of the fresh water. He tricked Ganook by placing excrement beneath him and then awoke him saying how he had messed himself. “Just look at yourself!” Raven exclaimed, laughing. Ganook rushed out into the sea to bathe, and while he was away Raven quickly removed the heavy lid and drank some of the sweet water. But before he could escape, Ganook returned and saw what Raven was doing. He was angry that he had been so easily deceived. He grabbed Raven by the neck and began roasting him over a fire. The smoke turned Raven black. Finally, Ganook released Raven, who flew away with some water still in his beak. As he flew, water dripping from his beak fell on the ground, forming the first rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds.

(Reference: Parabola Magazine Vol. 34 No. 2)

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