Terry Cross

Raven and the Old Woman

A Coast Salish Story

A long time ago….

Raven was walking down the beach one day when he found a pile of clams on a cedar mat laying at the edge of the sand. The clams were freshly dug and Raven was hungry.
He looked around and far down the beach he could see a woman digging clams. She was obviously filling her clam basket and emptying it onto this mat.

“Hmm…” Raven thought. “That looks like a nice lady from here. I’m sure if I asked her she would give me some clams to eat. But I don’t want to wait for her. It could be quite a while until she returns. And I am hungry now. I am sure she won’t mind if I eat just a few of these clams.”

And so he did. He ate a few of the clams, dropping the empty shells all around.

“Those were good” he thought. “I’m sure she won’t mind if I eat a few more. She can’t possibly be that selfish.”

And so he ate some more. Clam shells were scattered everywhere.

“I am not full yet and I’m certain that if she were here she would offer me more. So he ate more clams. In fact he ate all the clams. There was nothing but empty clamshells strewn around the mat. Raven burped.

“Those were very good. I should stay and thank her for her generosity, but it would probably embarrass her. She is such a wonderful person, sharing her clams with my like that. I will not embarrass her. I will leave now.” And Raven left and walked into the forest.

The Old Woman returned to her mat from digging clams on the beach. Her basket was full of clams. She found her mat empty and clam shells scattered all around.

“Who could have done this terrible thing?” she cried. She looked around and saw footprints in the sand around the mat. She recognized them. They were proof Raven had been there.

She was angry and unbeknownst to Raven, she was a powerful woman. She sang a song that asked water to run away from Raven. She had this power.

Raven was far into the woods now and he was thirsty after eating all those clams. He walked up to a small stream and bent his head down to take a drink. But as his mouth got close to the water, the water ran away! He tried again and the water ran from his lips.

“What is happening?” he asked himself. He tried several times to take a drink, but each time the water ran away. “It must be that old woman. She must have found oout that I ate a few of her clams and she is using some strange power to punish me. She is more selfish than I thought.”

Raven went everywhere trying to take a drink, but whenever he tried to drink the water would run away. He was very thirsty, but could drink no water. His lips and throat were parched and after a while his once beautiful voice sounded dry and scratchy.

“I must fly far away, beyond her power. I must have water” he told himself.

So for several days he flew to the north stopping once in a while to see if he could drink, but the water would still run away. Finally one day he bent his eat towards a stream and the water did not run away. He drank and drank until he could drink no more.

Raven decided not to challenge this woman’s power. He decided to stay in the north where he was safe. That is why we find more ravens in the north.

And that is all.