Long ago the Dena’ina did not have songs and stories. Then came the time that Crow sang for them. Till then, as they worked together and traveled, they chanted di ya du hu to keep them in time.

And so, Crow was flying along the beach. Where a creek flowed out lay an old, rotten fish. Crow looked up the bank and spotted a village. He turned into a good-looking man and went to visit the people.

Only women were at home. “Where are the men?” he asked. “They’re in the woods, hunting,” the women said. “Have a bite to eat with us,” they said.

“I never eat with strangers,” he told them (he lived on fish washed up on the beach). He asked for the loan of a dipnet, and back down to the creek he went.

A cottonwood driftlog lay on the beach. He plucked an eye from his head and set it on the log. “If you see people, shout Yu hu!” he told it, and tied a bandage around his head. He went down to his fish and began to eat.

The eye called, “Yu hu.”

He ran to it. No one was there. He smacked the eye and set it back down. “If you see anyone, shout Yu hu!” he told it.

Once again, no one was there.

A third time the eye called “Yu hu!” But Crow stayed with the fish.

But soon he heard people talking. He walked up to meet them.

“What are you doing?” they asked him.

“Fishing. But no fish here. Only old ones lying around—some bird picked at them.”

“What hurt your head?”

“Sand in my eye.”

“Let’s see,” one of them said. “It might be bad.”

“Oh no!” he said. “When I’m hurt I heal it myself.”

They spotted the eye lying on the driftlog. “Ah. That looks like an eye,” they said.

“No! Don’t touch it! You’ll do something wrong. It looks out for your good luck,” he said. “I know what to do,” he told them.

He picked up the eye. He tossed it into the air three times. Three times he sang:

“We found a wonder!

Ch’i’ushi chi’i’un!

Ch’i’ushi chi’i’un!

Ch’i’ushi chi’i’un!”

He pulled the bandage from his head. The eye dropped back into its socket.

And again he sang:

“Ya la ya la ah hi ah hi hi yu!”      


Now he turned back into Crow. Three times he crowed, “Gyugh!”

And he flew away.

Then di ya du hu became a song, with the Crow songs, and they sang them and danced to do away with bad things.

Then they sent a runner to the next village, to tell the neighbors what they had learned.

Now the neighbors were on the trail, coming to visit and celebrate the songs. It grew dark, and they wanted to camp. The runner, cutting wood, began to say, “Lend me an axe.” His words became a song.

Du gu li

Sh ghu ni hish

Y ha li

Yli ma che ha

A ya ha a li

Lend me an axe.

It will be fine!

We will have fire!

We will have game!”

Now they had four songs.

The young runner had worn through his moccasin. An old woman, always prepared for emergencies, took a piece of skin and cut it. She poked holes along its edge and threaded a skin thong through them. He stepped onto the skin, and she tied the thong around his ankle. After the Dena’inas had their new song, he had a new moccasin.

The people built a fire and had a celebration. They talked about this Crow and sang his song. Crow turned himself into a handsome young man and came to visit them, but did not speak.

“He doesn’t speak our language,” they said. “Welcome him anyhow.”

He listened to their stories about clever, foolish Crow; then, when they weren’t looking, he slipped away.

“He’s gone!” they said.

Sometime later, Crow visited his friend Camprobber and told him the story. “I went to visit the Campfire People,” he said. “They tell stories about me, full of jokes and good times. When they go hunting I wish them good luck. Then they make a kill, and all of us Crows have a good dinner party!”


From the First Beginning, When the Animals Were Talking

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  1. […]                                                   Peter Kalifornsky, “Crow Story”      From the First Beginning, When the Animals Were […]

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