Pacific Northwest Cultures:
Their Stories and Art.
“Where do we find Raven?…” the story begins. “… When you want to find Raven, you look for him at the top of the tree, where he often sits, his eyes always moving, always looking and looking, gazing out across his world, watching for some mischief to get into or something to eat…”
On this page I have assembled an annotated bibliography of books about Raven, and the Pacific Northwest Native American cultures in whose stories and mythology Raven plays such a prominent part. Look for them in your local library or bookstore. Highlighted titles are currently listed by Amazon.com Books and you can find out about their price and availability, as well as conveniently purchase them, by following their links – a service of Eldrbarry’s Story Telling Page in association with Amazon.com Books. A good source for finding used and out of print books is Advanced Book Exchange. All opinions, notes and recommendations are those of Barry McWilliams.
Raven, Mouse Woman and the myths and legends of the Pacific Northwest.
- Gail Robinson, Raven the Trickster and Coyote are delightfully written collections of stories of these two Northwest Tricksters.
- Christie Harris: One of my favorite authors – and prolific – her books of Tales includeThe Trouble with Adventurers, The Trouble with Princesses, Once Upon a Totem, Once More Upon a Totem,and The Mousewoman Trilogy: Mouse Woman and the Mischief Makers, Mouse Woman and the Muddleheads, Mouse Woman and the Vanished Princesses available in one volume. Another for which she is noted, Raven’s Cry – it is a novel about the coming together of the Haida and European cultures and a tribute to a vanished way of life. The illustrations are by Bill Reid – noted Haida artist.
- Myths and Legends of Haida Indians of the Northwest : The Children of the Raven by Martine Reid (Wife of the late Bill Reid) has drawings with Haida legends interspersed a good book to introduce children to native artwork and styles.
- Anne Cameron has published several Raven stories individually as well as her Daughters of Copper Woman (her stories came from a storyteller on Vancouver Island named Klopimum which means “keeper of the river of copper”) and Dzelarhons: Myths of the Northwest Coast, (Dzelarhons was the “Frog Woman”) both these volumes contain stories which focus on feminist issues. She has a book forthcoming Loon and Raven Stories
- Mary Giraudo Beck: Heroes and Heroines in Tlingit-Haida Legend, ,and Shamans and Kushtakas: North Coast Tales of the Supernatural. Mary Beck has a keen ability to relate the stories and myths to the life and culture of the Tlingit and Haida peoples. I highly recommend her book – Potlatch – which helps us understand the traditions of this important aspect of Northwest culture by describing the ceremonies and customs of the various kinds of potlatches as they were observed in the nineteenth century. She gives Raven stories told in their ceremonial contexts. Tlingit Tales: Potlatch and Totem Pole by Lorie K. Harris. Tales told by Robert Zuboff, eighty-year-old chief of the Beaver Clan at Admiralty Island, who spent hours sharing tribal lore with the children.
- Robert Ayre, Sketko the Raven
- James Wallas and Pamela Whitaker, Kwakiutl Legends
- Vi Hilbert (Narrator), Coyote and Rock : And Other Lushootseed Stories: (The Parabola Storytime Series) A audio cassette of stories.
- Vi Hilbert, Haboo: Native American Stories from Puget Sound Her efforts to keep the Lushootseed language alive have included the passing on of these Skagit stories.Also look for:
- Fran Martin, Raven-Who-Sets-Things-Right,
- Ronald Melzack, Raven Creator of the World
- Norman Lerman, Once Upon An Indian Tale
- J. Houston, Eagle Mask.
For older readers –
- Peter Goodchild, Raven Tales: Traditional Stories of Native Peoples (1991) A thorough study of the Raven cycles of myths in both the old and new worlds, this paperback has probably the best summary of the Raven cycles of tales. He also covers the Old World raven tales and offers some theories as to their origins.
- Dale De Armond, Raven. This book was illustrated by woodcuts, and has the Raven cycle of tales, in their more traditional form.
- Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst, The Raven Steals the Light contains ten Haida stories – some of the most significant myths – told and illustrated by an outstanding Haida artist – Bill Reid – noted for his monumental sculptures as well as carving and drawing. The Black Canoe: Bill Reid and the Spirit of Gwaii by Robert Bringhurst describes the making of a sculpture by Bill Reid for the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. A revised edition of Bill Reid by Doris Shadbolt has recently been published by The University of Washington Press.
- Robert Bringhurst has some new books on Reid and the Haida: Solitary Raven : Selected Writings of Bill Reid has writings by Bill Reid both during his time as a radio journalist, and essays on the verge of returning to his people and art. This book collects, for the first time, the most important of these widely scattered writings: seminal statements on the art of the Northwest Coast, on the role of the Native American artist in a multicultural world, and on the quintessential role of both the artist and the environment in the survival of human culture. A Story As Sharp As a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World, Bringhurst’s renderings of the verbal masterpieces of classical Haida storytellers are truly astounding, as it is his reconstruction of the facts surrounding their collection by American anthropologist John Swanton.
- Bill Holm, a student of Bill Reid has written Northwest Coast Indian Art: An analysis of Form a volume which has been an important part of the rebirth of this Native American art style. You can seen some his own work at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle. If you are travelling in the Puget Sound Region and would like a guide to the Native American Art in the area get a copy of Northwest Coast Native and Native Style Art: A Guidebook for Western Washington, by Lloyd Averill and Daphne Morris – besides a lengthy chapter on the forms and “language” of Northwest Coast Art, and locations where you can view it, the book also gives information about the artists and tribes in the region. If you are travelling in the Pacific Northwest and would like to visit the Indian Reservations, Native Peoples of the Northwest by Jan Halliday and Gail Chehak prepared in cooperation with the Affiliated Tribes of the Northwest Indians lists directions for more than a 1,000 things to see and do with Native people from all 54 tribes in Western Montana, Idaho, Northern California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and British Columbia, Canada. Art of the Northwest Coast by Aldona Jonaitis is a comprehensive survey of the Native arts of the Pacific Northwest Coast, from Puget Sound to Alaska and from prehistoric times to the present. Incorporating the region’s social history with the observations of anthropologists, historians of art, and Native peoples, this groundbreaking volume examines how the upheavals of European contact affected the development of a powerful traditional art.
For more on the Northwest Indians and their life and customs and art see:
- Hilary Stewart has drawn for us vivid portraits of North coast life and art – her books are full of drawings and descriptions of how they made use of the natural resources of the Northwest. Her fasination with unearthing those cultures during a summer archeological dig on the Katz River in 1971, led her to a career of of bringing to life a marvelous way of life. I love to browse through her books. Cedar: Tree of Life shows how they built their homes, seagoing canoes, even their clothing from the abundant cedar forests, Indian Fishing: Early methods illustrates how they fished the rivers using wooden hooks and fishing line made of kelp, and even hunted whales at sea in their wooden canoes. Stone, Bone, Antler and Shell: Artifacts of the Northwest Coast – a new revision of her first book – helps us understand how they made use of the other natural resources of the Pacific Northwest. All of her books give you a sense of how well the first peoples had adapted to their enviornment and made use of its bounty which left them time to produce wonderful art. Looking at Totem Poles teaches us how to understand and read the stories found in the carved poles so characteristic of the Pacific coasts. A companion, Looking at Indian Art of the Northwest Coast helps us appreciate the beauty of what continues to be a major art form. I found this volume quite helpful while designing my Raven storytelling screen. Bill Holm’s Native American inspired paintings are in Sun Dogs and Eagle Down: The Indian Paintings of Bill Holm.
- A dictionary of the beings which are the subjects of Northwest art is Understanding Northwest Coast Art: A Guide to Crests, Beings and Symbols by Cheryl Shearer. Published in 2000.
- Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Jim Gilbert and Karin Clark These reference and instructional manuals contains a detailed, thoroughly analyzed, well-supported comparison of the four Pacific Northwest First Nations art styles. The second volume puts First Nations art into deeper cultural context, providing Native Indian philosophy, knowledge and skills foundation, code of ethics, and interviews with a contemporary First Nations family, as well as some aspects of historical context and a description of the Potlatch. Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art contains step-step instructions and illustrations on the basics of drawing, designing, painting and carving in the Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian art style.
- Viola Garfield and Linn Forest: The Wolf and The Raven: Totem Poles of Southeastern Alaska is back in print. A survey of totem poles gathered by the U.S. Forest Service and placed in natural settings near Ketchikan, Wrangel and Sitka, and written in 1948 and revised in 1961, it includes descriptions of the characters and many of the stories portrayed on them. There are numerous stories included in the text.
- Aldona Jonaitis – The natural history museums have preserved most of our artifacts of Pacific Northwest life, and this noted scholar has published a number of illustrated volumes including Chiefly Feasts: The enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch and From the Land of The Totem Poles: The Northwest Coast Art Collection of The American Museum of Natural History. Both are lavishly illustrated with colorful pictures of carved poles and dance masks and other artifacts and available in paperback. Alas, most of the carving and poles of the Northwest have been collected and there are more totem poles in the museums than in Native American villages. Franz Boas, one of those collectors, studied and saved for us much about a way of life that was swiftly being lost – an anthology of his writings is found in A Wealth of Thought: Franz Boas on Native American Art, ed. by Aldona Jonaitis, has several very instructive chapters on the styles of animal forms used in the Northwest coast art and weaving. Douglas Cole has narrated how this happened in his book Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast Artifacts which tells about the competition of the museums to gather artifacts and knowledge. Were they saving or stealing a culture?
- A new book on the Peoples of the Northwest Coast : Their Archaeology and Prehistory by Kenneth M. Ames and Herbert D. G. Maschner is an excellent book covering the various tribes of the Northwest coasts.
- Several recently “coffee table paperbacks” have been published by the University of Washington Press. A Time of Gathering : Native Heritage in Washington State by Robin K. Wright, presents the cultures of the region around Puget Sound. Northern Haida Master Carvers also by Robin Wright highlights for the first time the distinctive achievements of several of the most important Northern Haida artists and analyzes the art historical developments and stylistic changes in pole carving. This book traces the making of monumental poles from the days of first white contact to the present, illuminating the variations in style that resulted from historical, cultural, and individual circumstances, with a particular focus on the Edenshaws and their artistic heirs. Kwakiutl Art by Audrey Hawthorn covers the cultures of the central British Columbian coasts. Haida Monumental Art : Villages of the Queen Charlotte Islands by George F. MacDonald, Richard J. Huyda, and George MacDonald includes a large number of photographs as well as site plans and detailed descriptions of 15 villages and several smaller sites with images of the Haida’s cedar houses and totem poles captured by photographers who travelled to these then-remote villages during the last quarter of the 19th century. The Great Canoes : Reviving a Northwest Coast Tradition by David Neel – The cedar canoe was central to the lives of the Northwest Coast’s First Peoples and in the mid-1980s the great canoes began to be built again. This book, by Kwagiutl photographer David Neel, explores the rebirth of the Northwest Coast canoe. Neel combines 70 of his most spectacular photographs with words from elders, builders, paddlers, chiefs and young people documenting the impressive canoe gatherings of the last few years. Native Visions : Evolution in Northwest Coast Art from the Eighteenth Through the Twentieth Century by Steven C. Brown, Paul MacApia (Photographer) will take you through the development of the the various styles of Northwest Coast art. Mythic Beings : Spirit Art of the Northwest Coast by Gary Wyatt connects the artwork to the mythological beings of the inter-related but distinct earth, sky and water realms and Haida Art by George F. MacDonald illustrates the definitive collection of Haida art – the holdings of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Down from the Shimmering Sky : Masks of the Northwest Coast by Peter MacNair, Robert Joseph, Bruce Grenville is about the costumes of the Pacific Coastal peoples – in particular their masks. And The Chilkat Dancing Blanket and The Raven’s Tail by Cheryl Samuel discusses their weaving and colorful dancing blankets. Many of the early paintings on bentwood boxes, paddles, house front boards have rotted, faded, or been obscured by a patina of oil, dirt, and woodsmoke. In The Transforming Image : Painted Arts of Northwest Coast First Nations by Bill McLennan University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology curator who developed a technique of photographing the pieces with infrared film to bring out the original lines of design, then transferring them, with the help of artists, onto mylar sheets and sometimes onto boards like the originals in order to bring the orginal designs back to life. Northwest Coast Indian Painting: House Fronts and Indian Screens by Edward Malin deals with the art form applied to houses and has both extensive text and numerous photographs. He also has books on Totem Poles of the Pacific Northwest Coast and A World of Faces : Masks of the Northwest Coast Indians.Want to try the art-form yourself: Learning by Designing Pacific Northwest Coast Native Indian Art, vol.1 and Learning by Doing Northwest Coast Native Indian Art by Karin Clark, Jim Gilbert from Raven Publishing will help get your started. And if you are interested in carving, Carving Totem Poles and Masks by Alan Bridgewater and Gill Bridgewater might be a good beginning.
- Gerber, Indians of the Northwest Coast,
- Philip Drucker, Indians of the Northwest Coast.For more on the ornithological ravens:
- Ravens in Winter by Bernd Heinrich (October 1991) Vintage Books
- Mind of the Raven : Investigations and Adventures With Wolf-Birds by Bernd Heinrich (April 1999)
- Bird Brains : The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays by Candace C. Savage (May 1997)
- The American Crow and the Common Raven by Lawrence Kilham, Joan Waltermire (Illustrator) (March 1991)
- In the Company of Crows and Ravens by John Marzluff and Tony Angell (2005) – which examines the surprising interactions between crows and humans.