Spirit of the Hawk

Spirit of the Hawk

Raven was walking along the beach.

He looks far out to sea. He sees an island of fire spouting flames into the nighttime sky. Raven is not a good distance flyer. That fire is too far away for him to make it. But he knows if he can get it, he can do great things for all of the world.

Ravens brother, Hawk, was walking along the beach. Hawk has a long, straight beak, Hawk is proud of his beak.

Raven asks, “Can you help me?

“What do you want me to do?” asks Hawk.

“I want you to get that fire out there for me.” says Raven

“How am I gonna do that?” asks Hawk

Raven goes up in a tree, and he gets a branch and he puts in Hawk’s long beak.

Then he gets some pitch and puts it on the branch.

He tells Hawk, “Fly out there, get me that fire.”

Raven tells him, “It is not an easy thing I ask…”

“…My Brother, be brave, have courage what you are doing is for all the people of the world”

So Hawk flies way out there. He flies around the fire once, twice, three times, and on the fourth time the fire jumps up and he flies right into it. Hawk has the fire and he flies back to shore.

He’s tired. He has been flying for a long time but he keeps on flying. While he flies that fire is burning down closer and closer to his beak. It’s burning him. The flame is right up to Hawk’s beak now, his long beak caused it to shrink down and hook but Hawk keeps on flying. Hawk wants to cry out, but he knows if he does he will drop the fire. So he keeps flying on in his pain and his weariness.

Raven sees him as he is getting closer, sees that he is getting in trouble. He flies out to him, along side of him. Side by side they are flying.

Raven says, “… be brave. I am with you. I am here beside you. It is a good thing what you are doing. … .”

Raven is beside him. It is like he is bearing him up.

At last, finally, they make it back to shore. Raven takes that fire and he throws it in the rocks. He throws it in the river. He throws it in the trees, into all the things growing in the forest there. He throws it in the animals. He throws it in the human beings. Now people have the fires. But more than fire, now they have the spirit. The spirit that is in all things.

Now it is in all of us.

That time then, Raven put the Spirit in all things. Now we have the fire. Now we have the Spirit. Now we are alive. Now we are all part of it.

You see the Seattle Seahawks have lit the fire in the hearts of the people. They have lit the fire in the heart of this city. But more than lighting the fire, we all share in that spirit. That’s what it is all about is sharing the spirit. Now we have the fire, now we have the spirit, now we are alive and now we are all part of it. – Gene Tagaban, Native American Storyteller

Spirit of the Hawk, Photo Credit: Brad Puet

Thank you for that awesome story, Gene. For our readers please introduce yourself and what you do.

My name is Gene Tagaban, My Tlingit name is Guy Yaaw. I am of the Takdeintaan the Raven Freshwater Sockeye clan from Hoonah, Alaska.

I am the child of the Wooshkeetaan Eagle Shark clan from Auk Kwaan, Juneau Alaska. I am Cherokee, Tlingit and Filipino. I am a storyteller, speaker, performing artist and mentor. I teach wilderness connection, awareness, empowerment, leadership, relationship, communication, spirit and honor. I assist individuals, families, groups, communities in healing. Healing from trauma, historical trauma, mental, emotional and spiritual trauma.

Can you explain to our readers the art of storytelling and how culturally that influences the work that you do?

We are a story, we are storytellers, your life is a story. Before we were born your story was being told.

You can find your story being told in the old, old stories. As a story teller I don’t just tell the story, I don’t just remember the story, I relive the story. I imagine the story, I see the story, I feel the story and then I share the story.

Stories teach, stories entertain and stories heal. The story is alive. We do not pick or choose the story the story chooses us. My teacher told me “When you talk to the people don’t just talk to them you talk to their spirit, that is how you are gonna reach them, that is where they will change, that is where they will heal, talk with their spirit.” This is what story telling does, you are talking to their spirit.

In many cultures, the storyteller role was passed down from one generation to the next. Can you tell us how you became a storyteller?

When I was in grade school storytellers would come in and tell stories of raven, eagle, bear, killer whale, salmon. I listened as my relatives sat around the dinner table at my grandmothers house sharing stories of how they grew up. I listened and I remembered. When I was 24 I was mentored to become a personal awareness teacher. It was there I learned the value of storytelling. In my late twenties I joined a Native American Storytelling Theater company and was trained on the art of storytelling. I use storytelling in every aspect of my work as a speaker, performing artist and mentor.

Can you tell us about the Raven, who the Raven is, and how he relates to the region, to your people, and to the many other communities in the Pacific Northwest?

Raven is the trickster, teacher, wise one, foolish one. There are many stories about Raven. Raven tells us about being human. Raven teaches us how to teach. Raven teaching or trickster teaching is a skill used by the indigenous people. Raven teaches us to not give direct answers but to encourage the learner to want to learn.

Gene Tagaban and The Incredible Hawk, Photo Credit: Brad Puet

You seem to have adapted the Raven to the Seattle Seahawks. In your eyes can you tell us the relationship between the two?

When you see the Hawk, you’ll see him as a very fierce hunter. He’s always flying around on the hunt. His presence is always with strength. All the other birds and all the other animals know that he is around.

The Raven is the trickster. Like for instance in Alaska, the Raven is always playing. Whether looking for food or just moving around, the Raven always has the presence of curiosity.

So when I dance, you’ll notice that I’ll have the presence of either the Raven or the Hawk. That will go as far as how I move, how I hold my wings. Even with my head movements, as the Raven my head is more playful and animated with the presence of curiosity. With the Hawk, my head movements are more direct.

Hawk is much more serious than Raven is.

As far as the masks and the regalia, how do you want audience members to see you?

This Hawk mask is made by Jake Lucas. I made the wings and everything else. The original design of the Raven was made by Chris Macua and by Aaron Elmore up in Alaska. These masks and regalia have traveled all over the world. For example, I am going to Venezuela next week and I’ll probably just take the Raven with me.

I see these masks as alive.

They contain the spirit of the Raven or the Hawk or any animal. They are able to tell their stories through me. They are able to tell the stories that my ancestors told through me. It helps me connect that to the people I am telling my story to.

When I bring out the Seahawks mask, the Hawk, children recognize it. They are automatically drawn in and I got them. I can talk to them. I can talk to them about how beautiful they are, how awesome they are, how special they are, how to believe in their self, and work hard. I can really start to build them up. I am not trying to just talk to them, I am really talking to their spirit. That is what I really want to touch.

Do you think that translates to the Seattle Seahawks (and especially recently with their success in the last 5 years) and the community (12s)?

There’s a spirit in this community. There’s a spirit and fire in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Their fire is lit. With them doing well, everyone is behind them. It’s given everyone hope. It’s given everyone this connection. This is what the team has given to us the community. The chance to join in. Even if they lose and they’re not because I don’t want to jinx them, but this community will always believe. There’s healing in this. This is what I mostly see is that it’s about the healing.

I don’t care if your white, you’re black, you’re Native, or you’re Asian, this is for all people.


The original mask meets the Spirit of the Hawk, Photo Credit: Brad Puet

Gene was performing at the Burke Museum during one of the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl rallies. In November 2014, the museum and the Seahawk organization put on display the original mask that inspired the 1976 Seahawk logo. The Kwakwaka’wakw transformation mask is currently on display at the Burke Museum in the Here & Now: Native Artists Inspired exhibit. It will be on display until July 2015.

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