Native American culture is embedded with extensive tales and legends. Every aspect of life, death, and existence has its own story to explain why things are the way they are. Often, different Native American tribes had very similar beliefs, but most tribes have their own unique variations in the details of these legends.
The raven also has a prominent role in the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, including the Tsimishian, Haida, Heiltsuk, Tlingit, Kwakwaka'wakw, Coast Salish, Koyukons, and Inuit. The raven in these indigenous peoples' mythology is the Creator of the world, but it is also considered a trickster god.
For instance, in Tlingit culture, there are two different raven characters which can be identified, although they are not always clearly differentiated. One is the creator raven, responsible for bringing the world into being and who is sometimes considered to be the individual who brought light to the darkness. The other is the childish raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry.
When the Great Spirit created all things he kept them separate and stored in cedar boxes. The Great Spirit gifted these boxes to the animals who existed before humans. When the animals opened the boxes all the things that comprise the world came into being. The boxes held such things as mountains, fire, water, wind and seeds for all the plants. One such box, which was given to Seagull, contained all the light of the world.
Seagull coveted his box and refused to open it, clutching it under his wing. All the people asked Raven to persuade Seagull to open it and release the light. Despite begging, demanding, flattering and trying to trick him into opening the box, Seagull still refused. Finally Raven became angry and frustrated, and stuck a thorn in Seagull's foot. Raven pushed the thorn in deeper until the pain caused Seagull to drop the box. Then out of the box came the sun, moon and stars that brought light to the world and allowed the first day to begin.
Bill Reid created the sculpture of The Raven and The First Men depicting a scene from a Haida myth that unifies the Raven as both the trickster and the creator. According to this myth, the raven who was both bored and well fed, found and freed some creatures trapped in a clam.
These scared and timid beings were the first men of the world, and they were coaxed out of the clam shell by the raven. Soon the raven was bored with these creatures and planned to return them to their shell. Instead, the raven decided to search for the female counterparts of these male beings.
The raven found some female humans trapped in a chiton, freed them, and was entertained as the two sexes met and began to interact. The raven, always known as a trickster, was responsible for the pairing of humans and felt very protective of them. With the Raven perceived as the creator, many Haida myths and legends often suggest the raven as a provider to mankind.