Two traditionally carved canoes on display in Sitka, Alaska, show two major clans of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, the Tlingit and Haida bands. According to the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, tribal members people are born into either the raven or eagle clan line, established matrilineally through their mother’s family. The council’s web site notes that in Tlingit, Yeil is Raven and Ch’aak is Eagle (Wolf is sometimes used interchangeably with Eagle).
If you have ever been to Southeast Alaska, one can see why these two powerful animals are chosen. The raven is the crafty trickster, the one who helped bring man into the world according to legend. The sneaky and beautiful raven makes haunting, complex noises that echo mysteriously in the damp forests of the region and can create a feast with any food that comes its way (my favorite Alaskan animal). Greenlanders on the far side of the Arctic I met also spoke highly of the raven for being a food thief from other predators. The eagle is the great and proud hunter, with the most watchful gaze one can imagine. Seeing it catch a salmon is an unforgettable sight. But they can also be dumpster divers, going after fish scraps from fish processing plants in Alaska, sometimes with sad consequences.
Personally, I think the raven run circles around the eagle, as bird intellects go.
These photos were taken in 1999. Click on each photo to see a larger picture in a separate picture page