Storyteller

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Raven gets his way

What would we do without the Raven? He means so much to the people in oh so many ways. He can be sly and then be so generous. Power, he has. And he can show you the way home, make sure you eat and heal. But he also can be a tricky fellow as this story will show you.

As I heard it so long ago, there was a very powerful chief who had a beautiful daughter. Her name was Siya and no one was good enough for her. Her father guarded her like a precious jewel. If any man dared look at her, it was his fate to be punished or even sent away, never to return to the village. This chief was a good man and that is why the Creator entrusted the sun and the moon to him. But as precious as the sun and the moon were, so was his daughter.

Now Raven knew if he could just get the sun and moon he would have much power over all. He would sit in the tree closest to the chief's ulax and watch. He would listen, and he saw how the chief's daughter was always alone and not allowed to speak or even look at anyone. Even though Raven was only thinking of himself, he felt sorry for Siya.

As the days went by, Raven learned all he could as he watched the chief. He needed to figure a way to get into the ulax and get the sun and moon. And then Raven thought of a plan, a very good plan: with the power that he had, he would turn himself into a young child. A child that needed a home and that came from nowhere.

So the next day, Raven flew from the branch of the tree and by the time he landed on the ground he was a little boy. He very shyly walked into the chief's ulax and sat by Siya. She was so surprised to see this child, for he was not of that village. ''Who are you and where did you come from?'' she asked.

Raven looked up at her with sad eyes and explained how his family had all disappeared and he had no one. ''I have been wandering for so long,'' he cried, ''and I'm so tired and hungry.''

Siya's heart went out to him for she herself was so lonely. ''You may stay with me and my father,'' she said. She made him a fine supper, wrapped him in warm blankets and sang him to sleep.

When her father arrived home she told him what happened and begged to keep the child. It took a bit of convincing, but Siya got her way. All the while, Raven lay covered in blankets peeking out and looking at the sun and the moon, and thinking how he would get them. As he drifted off to sleep, he thought of a perfect plan.

The next morning, he did his best to be a child. He kind of liked it. Siya gave him so much attention. But Raven had to have the power he came for. Later, as Siya sat sewing, Raven started crying. He cried so hard and loud that the chief came running in from outside, asking what is wrong with him.

''I don't know, father,'' Siya said.

Raven cried out and threw his hands in the air. ''I want that,'' and pointed to the sun.

''Oh no,'' said the chief, ''that you cannot have.''

Raven cried harder and stomped his feet. He made so much noise that Siya begged her father to ''please let him have it. He will not do it any harm.'' Finally the chief gave in.

After a while, Raven started his crying again and pointed to the moon. ''Oh no,'' said the chief. ''I let you play with the sun. You cannot have the moon.'' Raven cried so hard the chief had to cover his ears. Raven stomped on the ground and threw himself down, kicking and crying. Finally the chief could not stand any more. He took down the moon and gave it to Raven. Raven smiled to himself.

When everyone went to bed that night, he turned back to himself and flew out with the sun and the moon. Raven had gotten his way by being the trickster. That's the Raven! So moms and dads, stick to your guns. Just say no!

Lim Lim.

Ken ''Rainbow Cougar'' Edwards, from the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state, is an accomplished painter and storyteller. He is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and a longtime cartoonist for Indian Country Today.