Tales of trickster Raven and a bear in disguise

Posted: Thursday, November 09, 2000

Sometimes a handsome suitor is not who he seems to be.

When Ernestine Hayes was growing up in Juneau, her grandmother told her about a woman who was courted by a handsome man. They married and had children before she learned he was a bear in human form.

"When I was a girl, my grandmother used to tell me the brown bears were our cousins," said Hayes. "And this is the story of how that came to be."

Hayes will tell the story of the woman who married a bear Saturday afternoon at the Alaska State Museum. Lonna Stevens will tell two stories featuring the trickster Raven, and her 9-year-old daughter Shiana will tell two stories about a similar character named Weesahasaak, stories that came from her grandmother.

"He's a trickster like Coyote or Raven," Stevens said. "My mom is from South Dakota and my dad's from Klukwan. These stories are from my mom's area."

The storytelling begins at 1 p.m. and is part of a series of free events for Native American Heritage Month. In order to make the performance more friendly for young people, Stevens said it will last just a little more than an hour. She will be telling an Athabascan story she learned in Shageluk, a village on the Yukon River.

"I'm telling a story about how the potlatch came to be. It's a story I heard when I went on a trip up north to a village. My friend George Holly gave it to me to use," she said. "I'm also telling the story of how Salmon came to be."

Hayes said "The Woman who Married a Bear" is told throughout Alaska.

"I'm Kaag Waan Taan and this is one of the stories told by my clan," Hayes said. "The story is told among a number of Tlingit clans, as well as Athabascan clans and other Native groups in Alaska."

Hayes, a student of communications at the University of Alaska Southeast, has also written a novella of the story.

"I re-tell it, but I use my own creative imagination to dramatize it," she said.

UAS is featuring three Native writers in a presentation at 2 p.m. Friday in the Mourant Building Lake Room on the UAS campus. Hayes will read from her novella, offering some of the details she's editing for the family storytelling event on Saturday. Poets Hans Chester and Andy Hope will also read.

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