Distant Time Stories as Told By My Grandfather–Raven Fixes Marten’s Arm

Raven Fixes Marten’s Arm

Raven lived at this place. There were lots of people there. They were all kinds of animals living in one space. They were playing with a ball when more people came from upriver to play. The local people kept beating the upriver people. The upriver people became angry.

They all started to play again. They were wolf people and grizzly people that came from upriver. They kept on playing, and then one of the upriver people tore off one person’s arm. They took it back upriver with them. The downriver people did not know what to do.

One of them was hurt and they were unable to do anything about it. They told Raven, “You were never beaten. Go upriver and get that arm. He, the person who lost the arm, is really sick.”

But Raven said, “It’s impossible.”

The people insisted on him doing something. Finally, Raven said, “What will I do to those big people? I can’t do anything to them. I know they have the arm hanging. They also have something that rings hanging by it. There isn’t any way to get the arm back.”

When Raven still wouldn’t go, they fattened one dog for him because he was lazy. When it became fat, they killed the dog and cooked it. They brought it to him. When they brought it in, Raven was lying down on his back. “If we give this to you, would you look around upriver for the arm?” they asked him.

Finally, Raven moved his toes. “After I eat that I will try. When I paddle upriver, I will be gone a while. It will be because i am trying to get the arm,” he said. After he ate, he started to get ready to leave. Then he told them, “If nothing happens to me and I return, take the hurt person to the river bank, and have the injured side facing the river.”

Raven was leaving when Hawk Owl Man spoke to him, “Uncle, i will go with you. I will keep you company. If you happen to leave the canoe behind somewhere, I could wait for you there.” Raven took him along.

He was paddling along when he came to a portage. When he walked a while, he stopped and picked some spruce boughs, and set them in one place. Then he defecated on them and they turned into clothes. When he put them on, he looked real good. They did not look anything like the people around here wore. Again, he put spruce boughs together. He did the same as he had done before and they became clothes too. They were women’s clothes. He knew there was a single girl with the upriver people. The clothes were for her. He also knew the arm was hanging above where she sleeps.

He circled around and came to the house from the upriver side. When they saw him, they said, “Where is that Copper Center person coming from? Only people from around there dress like that. They use dentalium shells.”

They made him comfortable. They also gave him the single girl. He gave her the clothes and she put them on. He wished to himself they would put him under the place where the arm was hanging. As he wished, they gave him a caribou skin mattress to put beneath the arm. There he stayed but he was watched really closely. He couldn’t touch the arm. With a cane that he had, he poked it and asked what it was. The girl said, “I don’t know. The people that went hunting brought it in from some where. It has been hanging there since then.” He poked it. When it swung, the things that were hanging around it rang. When they did, the people came running.

“Who is moving it?” they asked. The girl told them, “This person is wondering what it is and poked it with his cane. He doesn’t know what it is.”

They told Raven, “We have it ther so that the person that owns it will not get it. He lives downriver. We will never give it back.” They went in and out of the house. He kept close watch on them. He watched, even the girl who was given to him. He paid no attention to the thing that was hanging. He kept wishing he could get the arm. He was hoping everyone would leave the house. When that happened, he would poke it. The people always rushed back in, but he would be just sitting there doing nothing.

One day, everyone left the house. He got up. It looked like he could get it. There was the smoke hole. He thought to himself, “If I were to go up that way with the arm, I will get away.”

He grabbed the arm suddenly. The people came running in. He cawed and flew up the smoke hole. He ran through the portage carrying the arm. The people ran after him saying, “We will catch up with you and kill you.”

When Raven ran out on the sandbar, his canoe was still upside down on the sandbar. He kicked it and it landed right side up in the water. His nephew, Hawk Owl Man, was sleeping right there. When Raven kicked him, he landed in the canoe sitting up. Raven rushed into the canoe and pushed out. Right at that moment, the people ran out on the sandbar.

They said, “It was you again. We wish someone would tear you apart like this.” As they were saying that, they pulled the trees out by their roots.

Raven was out in the middle, staying in one place. He moved his paddle once in a while. He said, “If you were out here, I’d do something to you too.” As he was saying that, islands starting coming out of the water. “If you ever come near me, this is what I’ll do. Don’t ever bother me again,” he told them. Then he paddled away, and so the people left. While all this was going on, the girl that wore the nice clothes had Raven’s droppings all over her. The nice clothes had disappeared.

Raven came around the bend from where he was returning. He hollered to the people at his place, “Put the hurt Marten Man by the bank.” They did that right away. While Raven was still in the canoe, he threw the arm at the hurt Marten Man. The arm went back in place, but it was a little stiff. The sick person could not move his arm back a little. That was a Marten Person to whom this incident happened. From then on, his one arm is a little stiff. That is why when you see its tracks, one paw print is always a little bit more forward than the rest.

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