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A Sugpiaq dancer.

Raven brought light from the sky when he descended. Also descending with him was a bladder, which contained the first man and woman. The world came into being from the bladder, which the first couple stretched with their hands and feet. The man then scattered his hair around, which formed trees, while the woman urinated and spat, creating the oceans and freshwater bodies. The man then took one of the women's teeth to fashion a knife, with which he cut some of the wood to create chips which, when he cast them into the waters, transformed into fish. Eventually, the man and woman had a son, who played with a stone. This stone then became an island, upon which another of their sons had his dwelling with a female dog. The second son and the dog married and became the ancestors of the people of Kodiak Island.


Iglulingmiut Inuit women and child in traditional parkas.

At the beginning of time, there were only waters. From these emerged a piece of ground. Raven began to pick at this first island with his beak, setting it into place. Upon this mound was a house, where dwelt three people: Raven (a young boy with the beak of that bird) and his parents. Raven's father had a bladder, with which Raven desired to play. Upon his father assenting, Raven accidentally damaged the article, which caused light to emerge. At this point, Raven's father took it from him, so that the light would not always shine. It is in this manner that day and night first appeared.

Thus, during the long Arctic night, darkness covered the earth like a pall. At that time, there lived a girl, who would be visited every night by someone who remained unknown to her. In order to ascertain the identity of her visitor, she mixed soot and oil and painted her breast with the mixture. To her shock, the next time she saw her brother, she noticed a pattern of black soot around his mouth. For his part, the brother denied all knowledge of the nightly visits. Once they became aware of the situation, the parents of the siblings became extremely angry and laid into them with such vigour that their son ran away, whereupon the girl picked up a firebrand and made her way after him. The boy ran up into the sky, yet still she pursued him. Eventually, he was transformed into the moon, while his sister became the sun. The sparks from the torch she carried became the stars. For evermore, the sun will pursue the moon, which hides in the darkness of night to avoid being overtaken.


Iñupiat woman sharing a kunik with a small child at a Nalukataq in Utqiaġvik, Alaska.

The Iñupiat of the Noatak River in Alaska describe Raven as being in human shape. He awoke in heaven and became self-aware within the all-encompassing darkness. He examined his body, finding all of his features, including the small bump on his forehead which would, in time, yield a bill. He discovered that he could move, and did so with great caution, on his hands and knees. This served him well, for, in time, he came to the edge of a yawning chasm. Retreating, he found a small, hard object which he planted in the clay. From this, there grew a tree. Soon, a Sparrow came down and alighted on Raven. Raven, however, was lonely, and made a creature like himself from the clay. Unfortunately, this creature grew violent, and Raven was forced to throw him into the abyss, where he would become Tornaq, the first of the evil spirits.

After this, Raven again returned to the tree, where he now found a forest. With Sparrow, he explored and found that they were on an island surrounded by the abyss. This piqued Raven's curiosity further, and he send Sparrow down into it to see what lay down there. Sparrow returned after a significant length of time and reported that there was land down there in the process of forming. This caused Raven to decide to fashion wings for himself with sticks, whereupon his body suddenly grew feathers, as he morphed into the familiar Raven shape known nowadays.

Raven and Sparrow flew down to the new land, which was the earth, and, once there, Raven set about ordering it, planting the various vegetation. He either found the first human in a plant pod, or else he fashioned them from clay. Whatever their origins, these first people were taught by Raven the arts of hunting, fishing and planting, as well as how to behave.

Once this work was complete, Raven then left the earth to form the heavenly bodies to give light to the earth.


Kabloka, a Netsilik girl in 1903-05.

The Netsilik tell a number of stories, with one notable feature being the use of words to tame chaos.

Early on in the history of the world, people emerged from tussocks of grass on the ground. These were nursed by enigmatic women who already lived in the area. At this stage, there was little other than sea, with no animal life to speak of. The people did, however, have knowledge of powerful magic which enabled them to find food. There was no ice and the forests existed on the bottom of the sea. Eventually, a great flood of rain came and destroyed all of the animals and people with the exception of two men. These lived together as a married couple, and one of them even became pregnant. They were shamans, and thus able to transform the pregnant man's penis into a vagina, enabling him/her to give birth - and producing the first woman in the process.


Sedna statue in the National Museum of Finland. Credit: Sailko on Wikimedia.

In the beginning, the great god Anguta created everything from nothing. He had a daughter, Sedna, a beautiful maiden. One day, a fulmar - the chief, no less, of these fowl - flew over her in the spring and told her to follow him across the sea to his home. This she did, but the poor girl was horrified to find the fulmar living in vile conditions, with no foot. In despair, she called to Anguta to help her.

Eventually, after a year, he set out with warm winds to break up the ice. He slew the fulmar and put Sedna in his boat for the voyage home. The fulmars, however, mourning their leader, became angry and searched for the murderer, resulting in a huge storm which almost turned Anguta's boat over. In order to save himself, Anguta threw Sedna overboard and chopped off her fingers when she tried to climb back aboard. These gave rise to sea life, and became whales, fish and other such creatures. Eventually, Sedna fell into the sea. The storm subsided and the girl somehow clambered back into the boat.

Sedna now despised her father and, as he slept, she commanded her dogs to bite off his hands and feet. When he awoke, he cursed everyone and everything, and was swallowed by the earth along with Sedna and her hounds. Before she fell into the chasm, Sedna created deer.

Now, Anguta, Sedna and the dogs dwell beneath the earth in Adlivun, where Sedna rules and, defeated, the creator Anguta hobbles. Adlivun is the destination for the souls of the dead, where the evil ones must sleep by Anguta.


In the beginning, the waters covered the earth. Dry land was not to be found. Coyote drifted along by means of a raft. Only the ducks existed besides him. He met them and sent them below to retrieve some material to create land. The red-headed mallard and pinto duck were unsuccessful, as was the blue-feathered duck. The grebe, however, managed to bring a little mud up between his feet.

Taking the mud and sand, Coyote made the earth, spreading it in all directions. He travelled westward and saw that life was beginning to emerge on earth. Medicine stones appear, and a Star Person came down and transformed into the tobacco plant. Finally, Coyote made grass and fish for the streams.

Sir Graham