The Lovers and the Sun
Long ago, the land was cold and dark, and ice covered the earth. The Raven had no warm place to land and play, so he asked the Sun to warm it up.
The Sun then rose upon the Land, and it warmed up, and the ice started to melt.
Upon this land a great River formed, which thousands of years later would be known as the Yu-Kon. And on this River was the village in which people lived, and it was called Eee-man-ghuk.
The people were happy, and the River provided abundantly. But there was one taboo: that they could not go downriver. They could hunt, fish and play upriver, but downriver belonged to the Raven and no one could go there.
As things happen, there was a disagreement between two people, and the disagreement got worse, and the village divided. Those that were with one group lived on the Sunrise side, and those that agreed with the others lived on the Sunset side. And much hatred and enmity ensued between the two sides. Only the Shaman could speak to those on either side.
Two of the children, a boy named Pee-tuk, and a girl named Ma-tiq had been friends since childhood. They always played together, and were together all day. But when the families of the village split, they ended up on opposite sides. Still, their friendship persevered, and when Womanhood came to the girl and Manhood came to the boy, they were still friends and wanted to be together, but the village would not approve because they were from opposite sides.
Ma-tiq and Pee-tuk went to see the Shaman, and they told him they would like to leave the village and go some other place where they could be on their own. But the Shaman was a wise man and told them: “If you go upriver, they will follow you and slay you. There is no place upriver because before you get too far you get to the Land of Forever Ice. And you must not go downriver.”
“What is downriver?”, asked Ma-tiq.
“Downriver,” the Shaman explained, “is the land of the Raven. The Raven protects that land and does not allow anyone to go there, for he is jealous of it. When someone dies, we put the body on a raft made of logs and willows and send it downriver. The River takes it to the Big Water, and the body sinks, and is safe from the Raven and the animals. Once on the bottom, the spirit and body separate, and the spirit hides from the moon lest it be taken to live in the cold, silver moon.”
And the Shaman continued, “At the time of a new moon, when the moon is dark and not powerful, the spirit of the dead person will enter a salmon, and the salmon will swim up the River to eventually be eaten by a woman. The spirit will enter her body, and allow her to have a baby with its spirit. You must not go downriver.”
So the lovers were very sad, and they tried to meet in secret now and then, but their hearts ached for each other, and one day their resolve steeled and they decided to take a boat and risk going downriver. One night, when the moon was setting, and the owls were singing, Ma-tiq and Pee-tuk met on the riverbank and took a small boat and paddled downriver.
But the Raven saw them, because the Eye of the Raven sees all. And the Raven was angry and jealous, and planned his revenge.
Ma-tiq and Pee-tuk paddled downstream, and the River got wider and bigger, and the water started to taste bitter, and they came upon the Big Water that the Shaman had spoken about. After they entered the Big Water, the Raven flapped his wings and a strong gale blew, and the boat was taken away from shore. The waves were big, and the little boat was so small. Ma-tiq and Pee-tuq were very afraid and they feared for their lives. Meantime, the Raven squawked overhead, in glee and joy.
But the Sun took pity on the lovers. He shone stronger and stronger for them, and the waves did calm down, and the wind died out. After many days adrift on the boat, the sea was calm, the Raven could not be seen, and the boat drifted. Ma-tiq and Pee-tuq were very hungry and thirsty, for the little they had packed had run out. They could not paddle, for they could not see land, and did not know where to go.
But one day, as they weakened, a land did appear, and they paddled towards it. And in time came to a shore of beautiful birds, furry animals, fruit trees of every kind, and clear, crystal streams of pure water. The Sun shone on them and blessed them with many children.
And when Pee-tuk and Ma-tiq got old, and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren gathered around them, the lovers would tell them that they came from the First People, and that they were from the village of Eee-man-ghuk, that the Sun blesses all and that the Raven now must eat what people throw away.
(© 2009, Ramon Gandia)