The Grand Hall has been built in the shape of an enormous canoe. The
architect, Douglas Cardinal, was
inspired by the myth of Raven's magic canoe that could shrink to the size
of a pine needle or expand to hold the entire universe. Images of Raven
can be found on totem poles,
clothing, and many household
and ceremonial objects. This raucous bird can also be seen perched on
some of the rooftops and house posts in the Grand Hall.
Cultural hero, trickster, transformer and the most important of all creatures, Raven put the sun and moon in the sky, created the rivers and lakes, brought plants and animals to the land, and released humans into the world by opening a giant clam shell. He gave the people fire, and brought light to the earth by stealing it from the Spirit of the Sky World, who kept it in a tiny box within a series of bigger boxes. Capable of doing both helpful and harmful deeds, Raven taught humans important skills, as well as causing them trouble by performing mischievous antics. He is a paradox, an embodiment of the creative tensions that exist between two opposites.
Native literature, art, songs and material culture are imbued with human, animal and supernatural beings who were created somewhere at the edge of the universe in primordial myth time. Myths can be interpreted from a variety of perspectives. They tell stories that explain natural phenomena, such as how plants and animals came to be the way they are. At another level, myths are a rich source of insight into society and our common human condition; they have meaning because they represent archetypes, patterns of life and thought that are universally valid. Myths are said to be the collective dreams of a society; they influence people's behaviour, attitudes and daily lives.
Re-enacting myths is an important way in which Native people experience the wisdom and power of their ancestors. Those that have universal benefit will survive to instruct, delight and respond to our deep human need to be connected to something greater than ourselves.