The Tao of Raven

An Alaska Native Memoir

Ernestine Hayes

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  • Published: October 2016
  • Subject Listing: Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir; Native American and Indigenous Studies; Pacific Northwest
  • Bibliographic information: 192 pp., 5.25 x 8 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

In her first book, Blonde Indian, Ernestine Hayes powerfully recounted the story of returning to Juneau and to her Tlingit home after many years of wandering. The Tao of Raven takes up the next and, in some ways, less explored question: once the exile returns, then what?

Using the story of Raven and the Box of Daylight (and relating it to Sun Tzu's equally timeless Art of War) to deepen her narration and reflection, Hayes expresses an ongoing frustration and anger at the obstacles and prejudices still facing Alaska Natives in their own land, but also recounts her own story of attending and completing college in her fifties and becoming a professor and a writer. Hayes lyrically weaves together strands of memoir, contemplation, and fiction to articulate an Indigenous worldview in which all things are connected, in which intergenerational trauma creates many hardships but transformation is still possible. Now a grandmother and thinking very much of the generations who will come after her, Hayes speaks for herself but also has powerful things to say about the resilience and complications of her Native community.
Ernestine Hayes is assistant professor of English at the University of Alaska Southeast.

"The Tao of Raven is marvelous in scope, a narrative that inspires, mesmerizes, teaches, and above all connects us with the world and our ancestors. With deft craft Hayes layers story in a warm design that places her personal tale within the story of her ancestors, and their collective story within the eternal history of territory. Just as Raven brought the gift of daylight to a people living in darkness, Hayes offers her clear vision of all that remains unseen and unconsidered. This is a work of towering importance."
-Susan Power, author of Sacred Wilderness

"This book is about life and all of its pockets of being. It includes the spiritual, the otherworldly beings, as well as the terrible history that continues to take place in our country. It is about aging at the same time as it is about childhood. It is memoir placed within the context of a large and complex history of the people and of the earth. She makes a complicated world something easily read and also quite beautiful."
-Linda Hogan, author of The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir


1. Brown Bear Spins beneath the Darkly Spinning Stars
2. Wolves Sing like Old Women Keeping Anceint Songs
3. Regret and the Forest Are Patient Teachers
4. They Are Holding Everything for Us


"The Tao of Raven is likely the most thoughtful book you'll read all year, memoir or otherwise."
-Addley Fannin, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner