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Tlingit artist designs stamp inspired by trickster raven tale for US Postal Service

Tlingit and Athabascan artist Rico Lanáat’ Worl designed a new stamp for the U.S. Postal Service, titled “Raven Story," to be released in 2021. It depicts a scene of the Tlingit story of trickster Raven, who sets free the sun, moon and stars.

Tlingit and Athabascan artist Rico Lanáat’ Worl designed a new postage stamp to be released in 2021 for the United States Postal Service, inspired by a traditional Indigenous tale.

The Juneau-based artist says the stamp design, titled “Raven Story,” tells the story of trickster Raven, who sets free the sun, moon and stars before escaping from his human family and transforming back into bird form.

Worl said it was a tough to choose a story that has been depicted by many artists in many ways, but ultimately felt that the story was a gateway to Tlingit culture.

“There’s excitement and drama in there, there’s a lot of meaningful and important and heavy things, but I wanted to present that more light side of it — the excitement,” Worl said. “The moment where Raven steals the stars in that story, it’s the moment of a heist. He’s either going to succeed or fail here. He’s super excited, he’s got adrenaline running.”

The design is one of many forever stamps that USPS announced last week. Other stamps released honor Lunar New Year, Missouri statehood and nuclear physicist Chien-Shiung Wu.

“Being asked to do a stamp is a huge honor, in particular because it’s a national platform and it’s a huge audience,” Worl said. “I know there’s a collectibles crowd around it … an audience that’s outside of Tlingit, Alaska, and very much outside of standard Native American culture contexts.”

Juneau-based artist Rico Lanáat’ Worl. (Donavan Johnson photo)

Worl says he was contacted by Antonio Alcala, the art director with the USPS, around two years ago about creating a design. Alcala had discovered Worl’s work through The Trickster Company — a design shop that he manages with his sister — which has artwork featured in the National Museum of the American Indian’s shop in Washington, D.C.

The stamp was initially supposed to be launched this spring, but COVID-19 delayed those plans.

“Having the opportunity was also a responsibility. I have to represent. That’s a big part of being Tlingit is being able to represent and represent well. I was trying to think of what message I wanted to put out there … A lot of times, Native Americans can be romanticized or dramatized, and I just wanted to really humanize,” Worl said.

Worl’s stamp will be available sometime in 2021. The Sealaska Heritage Institute hopes to hold a ceremony in honor of the stamp next year.

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