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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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Yup'ik RavenMarshall Cultural Atlas

This collection of student work is from Frank Keim's classes. He has wanted to share these works for others to use as an example of Culturally-based curriculum and documentation. These documents have been OCR-scanned. These are available for educational use only.






Raven Foils Oil


It wasn't iong ago that Raven had his greatest adventure since creating all the creatures on Mother Earth. Life had been getting rather humdrum for him anyway so he was happy for the chance to do something that was both exciting and helpful to his creations.

It so happened that while he was sharing a smali tidbit of an old dog carcass with his nephew Grey Jay that he iearned of the presence of some strange beings out on the flatlands. Grey Jay said they were very strange looking two-leggeds and they had round orange hats on their heads. There were three of them and they were bent over a pool of black liquid on the tundra. One of them, after touching the black gooey stuff, smelled it and voiced something like, "Oil!" He and another of the men smiled very big smiles when he said that, Jay told him.

Raven was curious about this and decided to fly out to the flats to investigate Jay's story. When he found the three two-leggeds he noticed they had put up a big tent and that they had parked some sort of whirlybird contraption not very far away.

He flew back and forth over the camp and spotted the large black splotch Jay had told him about. Since he didn't see the men around anywhere, he figured they were inside the tent. He could hear them talking, so he landed on the ground near the tent and listened to the conversation. What he heard made his feathers ruffle.

"This looks like a big one, Sam. We could rake in trillions of dollars of profit from the oil here. But how are we going to get the land to develop it? It belongs to the village over there."

"Pete, our company will just buy it from the village. They'll go for it. All people care about these days is money and getting rich. Anyway, even if they don't, we have other means."

The third man, bearded and older than the other two, spoke up, wondering how they could talk that way? They were speaking about people who had lived on this land for 1000's of years. He didn't think it was respectful to write off village people like that. To which Pete replied, "You be quiet about this, Rutan. You're just our pilot, and if you say one word about this discovery, you're dead meat!" But Rutan continued, "Well, so be it, fellows, you can find another pilot when we get back to Bethel. I can't work for bums like you!"

Raven was amazed at this conversation and thought Rutan was going to have to be careful from then on. in fact, everyone around these parts would have to be careful. It didn't take much to imagine what would happen to the land and people if that oil company had its way. He had heard horror stories from his northern cousins about what had happened up in Alaska's north country. The land and way of life of the people had been torn asunder. And although he usually stayed out of the business of the human beings in these parts, he wisely realized this was a matter that would require his interference.

Suddenly the tent flap opened and the two oil men walked over towards the whirlybird. Raven flew close and listened.

"We've got to get rid of him fast, Sam. He knows too much."

"Yeh, in Bethel. Don't worry. He'll conveniently disappear somewhere after we get in. Maybe drown or something." And he grinned.

Raven thought he'd better warn old Rutan about their intentions. So soon after

Pete and Sam had gone back inside the tent, and while Rutan was over checking out his whirlybird, Raven raised his beak and turned into a man and motioned Rutan to come over to him. Rutan was surprised but quietly approached him and listened intently to his whispered words. Raven told him not to worry though, that all would go well with him. And then he waved him back to the tent. When the tent flap closed, Raven took his bird form again and flew off towards Bethel.

Sure enough, as soon as Rutan got back to Bethel, the two oil men tied him up, hustled him into their van, then started driving toward the Kuskokwim River. When they stopped near a high bank overlooking the swiftly moving water they asked him if he had any last words? Suddenly from behind them there was the "quork" of a Raven and when the two men wheeled around they were faced by the same man who had befriended Rutan back at the camp. He stared sternly at the two men with his black eyes and in a moment had them limp at his feet. After untying Rutan, Raven revealed his true identity and then asked him how much of the information the two men had sent back to their oil company?

"None," Rutan replied, "All their documents and computer disks with the data they had acquired were in the van in a locked metal trunk. They were going to take it back to Texas with them tomorrow."

Raven smiled, relieved that the job would be so much easier now. He then explained what he had to do to keep the information about the oil discovery from getting out to the world. Rutan agreed that it was necessary and offered to help him. The only help he thought he needed, Raven said, was with the metal box and, of course, complete silence about anything he witnessed.

While Rutan was lifting the metal container out of the van, Raven took his bird form again and flew up on top of the van to think.

"Yes, he said, this is the way it must be." And he flew far up into the pale blue sky and drifted there for awhile. Rutan looked up and he could barely make out Raven's black silouette. Then suddenly there was a bright flash in front of him and the box slowly rose into the air. Then it moved at a right angle towards a group of large trees until it reached the tallest cottonwood where it settled solidly down in the topmost branches and became a giant eagle's nest. As Rutan lowered his gaze earthward, he noticed the two men on the ground were also changing form. They became two old spruce logs and began to roll towards the edge of the embankment. They continued rolling until, Splash!, they were in the muddy water and rapidly floating down the river to the Bering Sea where they would probably become firewood to warm someone's village home.

Raven realized that Rutan would now be in special danger from the Texas oil company which surely would accuse him of murder. So he flew down to him, lifted his beak and became man again and asked if he would like to be a part of the Raven clan too and help keep the land and people safe from exploiters like the oil company those two-leggeds were representing. Rutan thought about it for awhile and then finally nodded his head. At that, he began to take on the same bird form that Raven had and together they both closed their beaks and flew off towards the place where the oil had been found.

After a few hours of flying Raven and his friend reached the illbegotten site and landed beside the now much larger pool of sticky black goo. They rested there for awhile wondering what they could do to forever rid themselves of this black curse? They thought about it and discussed their ideas for a very Iong time until finally the answer came to them.

Raven said his powers were such that he could make the oil disappear forever, even the oil under the Earth. But he resisted this thought after speaking with his friend. Rutan advised him against this course since he understood the needs of modern humans. For in the villages, didn't the people need the stuff nowadays for even their basic comfort? Someday when it was all gone elsewhere it would probably come in very handy for the communities in these parts. But for now, he mirrored Raven's feelings.

"You're right," Raven continued, "I will not make it go away completely. You speak with wisdom, Rutan. I will get rid of only the earthly traces of this black curse you call oil. Perhaps sometime in the future when humans are wiser and, like you say, our people have the true need, then will I let the elders know where it is again. Mean-while I will wave my wings over this poison and dry it up."

And with four wide waves over the oil with his giant wings, in a sudden flash it vanished from sight. Raven then cast a spell in the four sacred directions on all the underground oil in the region so that noone could find it again, at least not until man had become more respectful toward his creations. If that ever happened, only then would he release the spell and allow the black liquid to be used. For now though it would be safe. As was the land and its animal creatures, including the human beings who lived in the villages nearby.


Frank Keim
  Raven Foils Oil

The Raven

- Edgar Allen Poe

Ravens: Not Easy To Catch

Voices of Ravens

- Frank Keim

The Old Couple and the Bootmakers

Raven Foils Oil

- Frank Keim

Student Encounters
Original Student Folktales
from our community
S.E. Alaska


Christmastime Tales
Stories real and imaginary about Christmas, Slavik, and the New Year
Winter, 1996
Christmastime Tales II
Stories about Christmas, Slavik, and the New Year
Winter, 1998
Christmastime Tales III
Stories about Christmas, Slavik, and the New Year
Winter, 2000
Summer Time Tails 1992 Summertime Tails II 1993 Summertime Tails III
Summertime Tails IV Fall, 1995 Summertime Tails V Fall, 1996 Summertime Tails VI Fall, 1997
Summertime Tails VII Fall, 1999 Signs of the Times November 1996 Creative Stories From Creative Imaginations
Mustang Mind Manglers - Stories of the Far Out, the Frightening and the Fantastic 1993 Yupik Gourmet - A Book of Recipes  
M&M Monthly    
Happy Moose Hunting! September Edition 1997 Happy Easter! March/April 1998 Merry Christmas December Edition 1997
Happy Valentine’s Day! February Edition 1998 Happy Easter! March/April Edition 2000 Happy Thanksgiving Nov. Edition, 1997
Happy Halloween October 1997 Edition Edible and Useful Plants of Scammon Bay Edible Plants of Hooper Bay 1981
The Flowers of Scammon Bay Alaska Poems of Hooper Bay Scammon Bay (Upward Bound Students)
Family Trees and the Buzzy Lord It takes a Village - A guide for parents May 1997 People in Our Community
Buildings and Personalities of Marshall Marshall Village PROFILE Qigeckalleq Pellullermeng ‘A Glimpse of the Past’
Raven’s Stories Spring 1995 Bird Stories from Scammon Bay The Sea Around Us
Ellamyua - The Great Weather - Stories about the Weather Spring 1996 Moose Fire - Stories and Poems about Moose November, 1998 Bears Bees and Bald Eagles Winter 1992-1993
Fish Fire and Water - Stories about fish, global warming and the future November, 1997 Wolf Fire - Stories and Poems about Wolves Bear Fire - Stories and Poems about Bears Spring, 1992



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Last modified August 23, 2006