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How Raven Made the Tides

Date: Fri,25 Apr 2008
Submitter:Yvonne Friend

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(Tsimshian Pacific Northwest)

A long time ago, the old people say, the tide did not come in or go out.

The ocean would stay very high up on the shore for a long time and the clams and the seaweed and other good things to eat would be hidden under the deep water. The people were often hungry.

“This is not the way it should be,” said Raven.
Then he put on his blanket of black feathers and flew along the coast, following the line of the tide. At last he came to the house of a very old woman who was the one who held the tide-line in her hand.
As long as she held onto it the tide would stay high. Raven walked into the old woman’s house. There she sat, the tide-line held firmly in her hand.
Raven sat down across from her.

“Ah,” he said, “Those clams were good to eat.”

“What clams?” said the old woman.

But Raven did not answer her. Instead he patted his stomach and said, ” Ah, it was so easy to pick them up that I have eaten as much as I can eat.”

“That can’t be so,” said the old woman, trying to look past Raven to see out her door, but Raven blocked the entrance. So she stood up and leaned past him to look out. Then Raven pushed her so that she fell through the door, and as she fell he threw dust into her eyes so that she was blinded. She let go of the tide-line then and the tide rushed out, leaving all kinds of clams and crabs and other good things to eat exposed.

Raven went out and began to gather clams. He gathered as much as he could carry and ate until he could eat no more. All along the beach others were gathering the good food and thanking the raven for what he had done.
Finally he came back to the place where the old woman still was. “Raven,” she said, “I know it is you. Heal my eyes so that I can see again.”

“I will heal you,” Raven said, “but only if you promise to let get of the tide-line twice a day. The people cannot wait so long to gather food from the beaches.”

“I will do it,” said the old woman. Then Raven washed out her eyes and she could see again. So it is that tide comes in and goes out every day because Raven made the old woman let go of the tide-line.
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