11 November 2011

Who discovered humans

A couple of weeks back we told the story of Wilderness Lodge’s Raven totem pole. We’re back to walk across the lobby and tell the tales of the Eagle Pole, which features Frog (The Communicator), Bear Chief, Bear’s Nephew, A Copper of Great Value, Mountain Goat, Mouse Woman, Humans (in the Clamshell), Raven (who discovered humans), Beaver (with Chew Stick), Daughter (Comes Home), Eagle Chief and Village Watchmen.
Bear Chief, symbolizing the house owner, sits at the base of this totem pole. It is widely believed that, in all of nature, bears and humans are most like each other. Bear Chief holds Frog to his mouth. Frog is known as the communicator, for he can speak to all of the animals and humans. Frog tells the Bear Chief that he should hold that he should hold a potlatch feast for his young nephew, Bear Cub.

On this pole, we see Bear Cub emerging between Bear Chief’s ears. Nephews are traditionally trained by their uncles, whose responsibility it is to educate them in the way of the Bear Clan. Bear Chief has planned to raise this totem in front of his new house at the time of the potlatch feast that he will give in honor of his nephew and all their invited guests.

A great painted shield of copper, the symbol of highest wealth, shows the design of Staget, the magical spirit between animals and humans. Originally pounded flat from native copper traded by these northwest coast Indians from the mountain folk of the far north, a shield such as this copper shield is judged to be worth an enormous amount. This copper has been given the name “27 Servants” which indicates the value of this treasured possession, a piece of which the Bear Chief plans to give to his nephew during the potlatch feast.

Klu-kun, the Mountain Goat, sits on the pole showing his shiny black horns and magic hooves. He is a famous cliff jumper and is very generous in supplying his smooth, rich, back fat, a rare ointment used by both animals and humans to heal and beautify the skin. Mountain Goat once helped a young copper seeker to climb down the mountain cliffs by lending him his hooves. Then Goat showed that youth how to jump the widest river by lending him his white leaping coat. It is Mountain Goat who holds the copper to protect it.

A short section of carefully glazed red cedar pole with a hole in its front where Ksem Wed-Zin, Mouse Woman, lives and views the animals and human world around her. Mouse Woman has always been famous for helping young people.

Once when a fisherman grew bad tempered because of his hunger, he took a salmon club and struck a young boy who was dancing and singing around the fire.

Mouse Woman scurried down for her hole in the pole and stood before the fisherman. “Angry man,” Mouse Woman said, “it was wrong of you to strike that child. The boy disappeared, but I can still hear him crying out in pain. Quickly, quickly, fisherman! Find all of the scraps of salmon meat and bones you scattered when you had finished eating, then throw them carefully into the fire.”

The fisherman had no sooner done what Mouse Woman had asked than the child whom he had struck was healed again, reappeared, and continued his happy dancing and singing around the fire. The fisherman felt very sorry for what he had done and took the boy out in his canoe and taught him the true art of fishing.

Supernatural Raven arrived in the earliest times when the earth itself was very young. There were still only a few animals and no humans in the world. Raven was flying along a long, narrow arm of sand that thrusts itself far out to the sea. Suddenly, he saw a large clam lying on the beach. Raven swooped down and opened its shell with his powerful beak. In this way, raven released the first humans who ever walked on this earth. These humans were all very small, no larger than the size of your smallest finger. But as they went running toward freedom along this lonely beach, they commenced to grow and grow until they reached the size of you and me. After that these animals humans busied themselves building houses, carving totem poles, and raising their young. The built huge sea canoes and paddle them along all the coastlines and around all the island until soon they had populated the whole world!

Beaver sits very high upon the pole, between Raven and Eagle, for these two great supernatural birds have not always lived in peace together. Once when Raven and Eagle were having an argument about who should grab the smaller Beaver’s crest and take it for their own, Beaver grew very angry and threw down his chew stick. He whistled through his teeth to both those birds, saying, “I come from a place where there’s a giant beaver bigger than either of you. He is bigger than both of you together!”

When Eagle and Raven laughed at him, Beaver dove down from his place on the pole into the family beaver dam and pulled away the small logs and alder saplings. The water in the beaver dam rushed out through the hole. Eagle and Raven called out in wonder, for there beneath them was the biggest beaver in the world hiding at the bottom of the beaver’s pond. This giant Beaver had faces on all his joints and protected himself with his huge, leather tail.

Supernatural Eagle, standing on top of the pole, sometimes chooses to be a bird, but it is said that he has the power to change easily into a human being. This Eagle once heard a girl crying far out to sea because long ago, she had gone away to marry one of the Undersea People, but while there she grew so sad and lonely for her family and her people that she cried endlessly with large tears rolling down her cheeks. Eagle flew out to the island in the sea, picked up the girl, and started to fly her back to her family again.

“Don’t look out,” Eagle warned the girl. “Don’t look down.” But, so curious was she that she spread his wing feather to have a peek, and that caused Eagle to fall down into the sea in front of the girl’s village and they both had a terrible struggle to swim ashore.

Eagle wants to be a helper to all and that is why atop his head sits three small Taan-skeels. These are the watchmen for all the humans and animals. Wearing tall, shading hats, Taan-skeel keeps their eyes wide open day and night, for it is they who protect their village houses. They peer endlessly out to sea, along the beaches, and deep inside the shadows of the forest that stands behind the village. These three Taan-skeels are the watchful helpers of the world.

1 comment:

Ben in RI said...

Ryan, thank you again. I have really enjoyed these and they give my family something to look forward to for our next trip. We really appreciate it.