SHI TO HOST LECTURE SERIES ON RAVEN THE TRICKSTER, CULTURAL HERO
Free event to be offered in-person, virtually
May 3, 2023
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will sponsor a lecture series on Raven as Trickster and Cultural Hero by traditional Tlingit and Tsimshian storytellers this month.
The series will end with an academic review of Raven stories by a scholar of Northwest Coast culture and history.
All lectures will be held in-person at noon (Alaska time) at the Walter Soboleff Building in Juneau. SHI will also live stream the series on its YouTube and save the talks on its channel immediately after.
The talks are scheduled as follows:
- Tuesday, May 9: Johon Atkinson, Tsimshian
- Tuesday, May 16: Fred White, Tlingit, Shangukeidí
- Thursday, May 18: William (Joey) Bolton, Tsimshian
- Tuesday, May 23: David Kanosh, Tlingit, Deisheetaan
- Postponed: Dan Brown, Tlingit, Teikweidí
- Tuesday, May 30: David Nelson III, Tsimshian
- Thursday, June 1: Thomas Thornton, Ph.D., Kaagwaantaan
SHI is finalizing a manuscript on Raven stories, which will be published by the institute through the University of Washington Press. The book will feature 50 episodes of Raven’s adventures as told by Tlingit storytellers who were documented over many years by the late Richard and Nora Dauenhauer and others. The book will include Lingít transcriptions of the stories with facing English translations.
Trickster is found in oral traditions throughout North America and elsewhere in the world. Among many Native Americans, the Trickster takes the form of Coyote or Raven. Among Alaska’s Indigenous population, he is Raven. Among the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian of Southeast Alaska, he is especially prominent as segments of these societies identify themselves as Raven through their moiety or clan affiliation. These Raven individuals recognize an affinity with the natural Raven. The non-Raven Natives joke about Raven and his antics as if the Raven individuals are responsible for his naughty behavior.
Evidence of the antiquity of Raven’s stories may be reflected in archaeological artifacts. A few pointed-beak birds appear among stone or bone archaeological artifacts dating between 4,000 and 1,000 years ago. In Northwest Coast art design, Raven is depicted with a pointed beak while Eagles have a curved beak. Raven stories were well developed among the Southeast Alaska Natives when the earliest visitors to the region some two hundred years ago heard these oral narratives being shared. The significance of Raven is evident not only in Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian oral traditions, but in their visual and performing arts as well.
Natives are quick to point out that Raven is not a God, although he is credited with bringing many benefits to humanity through his deeds and more often his mischievous misdeeds. This inconsistency in behavior between benevolent and malevolent is reflected in the dual personality of Raven as a Cultural Hero and Raven as a Trickster. Raven enters a world that was already in existence, but through his actions he rearranges or transforms the created world. Raven as Culture Hero and Trickster change the physical features of animals and the landscape, but Raven as Trickster satisfies his desires at the expense of others. (Excerpted from foreword by SHI President Rosita Worl for SHI’s Baby Raven Reads children’s book series.)
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.
CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Communications and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636, email@example.com.
Caption: “Raven” by David A. Boxley, courtesy of Sealaska Heritage Institute. Note: Media outlets are welcome to use this image for coverage of this story. For a higher resolution file, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.