Recently, I came across several episodes of a program called Raven Tales featuring adaptations of Native American folklore and began wondering more specifically where these tales originated and who/what the raven character represented. Looking up a little information online, I noted that the Raven Tales program originates out of British Columbia, Canada.
If you know your Canadian geography, you know that British Columbia is a province along Canada’s western coast, just above Washington state in the United States of America. As it turns out, the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast—a region that includes parts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington state, Oregon, and northern California—share certain beliefs, and it was from these aboriginal peoples that “raven tales” originated. According to Wikipedia, Raven Tales are creation tales, telling where these Native American people and animals came from.
As you might have guessed from the fact that they’re called “raven” tales, Raven is a central character in many of these stories. In the Northwest Coast people’s mythology, Raven is a trickster deity and master shapeshifter—greedy, but also helpful. In the northern pacific coastal area tribes (like Alaska and British Columbia), Raven appears as a hero.
However, many modern adaptations aimed at children have been criticized for portraying Raven as too nice. I also found out, though, that the Raven Tales program which initially peaked my curiosity on this subject was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution to educate children on aboriginal culture.
Each of the various native tribes has numerous raven tales, making for literally dozens of myths involving Raven. The Alaska Native Knowledge Network (ANKN) links to several southeastern Alaskan tales involving Raven, while the First People and AIHF’s Indians.org websites both have many Native American tales from a wide variety of tribes.
Enjoy if you find yourself reading or watching any Raven Tales—just don’t let that cunning Raven trick you into doing anything you don’t want to do! 🙂