Monday, January 19, 2009

Tlingit Creation stories

I love creation stories. There's something so poetic and magical about them. I have books of these types of stories from different countries and I love the similarities and differences between them. My favourites? Tlingit creation stories. I don't know much about my own personal heritage apart from what I've read in books, but it's a part of who I am. (for new readers, I am half Tlingit. My mother is 100% Tlingit and was born and raised in Southeast Alaska) Here are a few creation stories that I have known since childhood:

Raven Creates Fish

One day, Raven called the salmon together to choose their rivers. King Salmon said, 'I will travel up the long, large rivers to the clear waters, where I will spawn.' Dog Salmon was next. 'I, too, want the larger rivers.' he said, 'but if they are filled, I will use the smaller streams.' Next came Coho. 'I prefer the short, fast, clear waters for my spawning,' was his request. Sockeye was quick to step up and said 'I claim the lakes.' At the end was poor little Humpback. He looked up and softly said, 'I'll take whatever is left.' And so it is that even today, each type of salmon can be found in the streams they picked. But you will notice that there are more Humpback salmon than all the others.

How Raven Made People

One day, Raven felt lonely, so he decided to make people. He strutted along the beach looking for a way to make humans. He saw some stones. He piled them up and said, 'Now, become human and walk.' The stones started to tremble but they quickly tumbled to the ground. 'Well, that didn't work,' he said to himself. Then he found some interesting looking sticks and tied them together with grass. Again, he said, 'Become human and walk!' With only a few clumsy steps they came apart and fell down. Finally, he noticed the beech grass ('chook') blowing in the wind. It almost looked alive. He grabbed a handful, tied some across to make the arms and legs and shouted 'Walk!' Suddenly it came alive and began to move. Sure enough, that was the first person in the world.

I love the idea of fish being rewarded for being humble and the idea that humans originated from the image of beach grass blowing in the wind. What do you think?

Want more? here are other Tlingit Creation Stories


  1. I took a university course on Native American myths for my English lit degree many years ago, and I ended up doing a paper (this was a 4th year class) on the Tlinglit myth of how the clans came to be, specifically killer whales, which are a mammal I love. I ended up reading about alot of different myths before choosing what to write on, and what I thought it meant. Anyway, your post really means something to me, with Raven Creation myths. You must sometimes feel so far from home, with your ancestral land half-way around the world!

    My brother is aboriginal, he's Ojibway (adopted) from Manitoba. I've been involved in native culture ever since I discovered our Friendship centre here in Ottawa. Most major cities in Canada have an aboriginal-run Friendship Centre. Part of the Odawa Friendship Centre's problem is so many different nations are in Ottawa, no one knows quite which traditions to follow when they have meeting circles, powwows, dinners for's usually Algonquin since we are in Algonquin territory.

    Anyway, while I'm not native myself (or it's so far back I can't find it yet), I hope this makes you feel not quite so alone in the world. And I think I'm going to share the Raven creation stories with my children, I think they'll enjoy them!

    Thanks for this post, Michelle, very much!

  2. I've loved creation stories since I was a child. I used to have a few books on creation stories from around the world, but have no idea what happened to it :(

    Such a beautiful idea, humans arising from beach grass blowing in the wind! I wish more people were interested in their heritage.

  3. Oh, I haven't heard those before! Thank you for sharing. They are wonderful.

  4. Thank you for sharing your stories! Looks like we're both on a family history kick lately..

    There was no history of twins on my mom's side. My dad's side only had twins recently, like the past 15 years or so. We're not sure where the twins came from.. And no I don't want a big family! I don't know how my mom did it. Also, being the youngets and most left out of all the kids, I don't want that for my kids. 2 is enough for me!!

  5. I love the salmon story. There's a lesson there!

  6. P.s. come on by my blog, I have something for you!

  7. This is such a beautiful story - I love these, Aboriginal stories are so sweet & moving.

    I can't read any of them without having intense cravings for fresh bannock though. My goal for this summer is to learn how to make it!

  8. What wonderful stories, I love myths. Its amazing how different cultures look at the world. Thank you!

  9. wow so amazing and how exciting to have such a lovely heritage! x


HI! Thank you for leaving a comment, you've just become my new best friend :)