ravens as witness

Robert Bateman. Young Haida Raven. Lithograph

Quite a few years ago one of the houses on my street was rented by an organisation that re-rented houses to aboriginal families, many of whom oscillate between urban homelessness, remote reserves and multi-family houses.  They were great, setting off in the morning to walk the city, laughing, their clothes carefully tuned to a code unreadable by the rest of us: romantic, moccasined, with dogs and all the time in the day.

The weeping elm in the front yard of this house was occupied that summer by an owl, two ravens and a family of indignant magpies.  I'd never seen an owl in my neighbourhood, and ravens too were new although I'd once seen one in Bragg Creek.  The summer ended badly, with one of the beautiful girls attacking another girl who was carrying on with the first girl's husband.  Bloodied people were carried off in ambulances and police vans.  
The owl went immediately, then the family moved on, the ravens went with them, the house was empty for a couple of years, the magpies stayed.  

Several years later a Blackfoot woman from Siksika First Nation told me that owls announce that a death will occur.  The ravens, continually plagued by the magpies, just sat all summer long, dignified and waiting, and when it was all over, they disappeared.