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New Postal Stamp To Feature Design By Artist From Tlingit Tribe


In Alaska's Tlingit tribe, there's one character who appears again and again. Raven is in many traditional stories. And next year, he'll show up someplace new - a U.S. postage stamp.

RICO WORL: The main thing that I thought about - what is my responsibility as a member of the Tlingit people?


Artist Rico Worl - he's believed to be the first member of his tribe to design a postage stamp.

WORL: I ended up choosing a story called - which is often referred to as "Raven And The Box Of Daylight."

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Reading) Raven looked around, and it was dark. There was no sun, no moon, no stars. That was the way it was back in those ancient days when it was dark as the inside of the Earth, dark as the wing of Raven himself.

KELLY: That is an excerpt from "Raven And The Box Of Daylight" from the archive of the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Rico Worl grew up hearing this and other stories.

SHAPIRO: A couple of years ago, an art director found his work in the gift shop at the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., and contacted Worl.

WORL: It's exciting to be able to be asked to do a stamp. I knew it was a national platform. I knew that it would get - whatever image I put out there, it would get some traction. It would get a lot of people's attention.

KELLY: Then months and months of work went into planning the design of the stamp. Worl is sure he picked the right image.

WORL: It is a story that is a gateway for learning about Tlingit culture for a broad audience, for a national audience.

KELLY: The final image is of a stylized bird shifting to human form. He faces to the upper right of the frame.

WORL: Raven is all black on a white background. His feathers are kind of stretched out backwards. He's got a hand - a human-shaped hand kind of jutting out from one part of his body, indicating that moment of transformation. Raven is in a moment where he's stealing some stars from this clan leader, and he's kind of bringing stars out to the world to share with the world, to share with everyone in the world.

SHAPIRO: Sounds like the story of a piece of art becoming a stamp - like so many things in our lives, this Raven story stamp was delayed by the pandemic. It was supposed to take flight this year, but letter writers will have to wait until 2021.

(SOUNDBITE OF TREMOR'S "CARACOL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.