(too-loo-gak): Inuktitut (the language of Inuit) word meaning raven

Hans Nelles

Haines Junction, YT

I emigrated with my wife Christine in 1987 from Germany. We built this place which we called The Raven in 1994. It is a hotel/restaurant. We built it ourselves with a friend from Whitehorse. It’s been a huge job of course. It took us a year to establish the building with the idea to have something very nice, a gourmet dining facility with an upscale hotel in these wonderful mountain regions of Kluane National Park. We wanted to give people a chance to come here for a destination holiday to stay for more than one night and enjoy great food and hospitality. A lot of people said it was not going to work because it was not the clientele but we’re very, very successful. We won several wards for being a top restaurant in Canada. We had several TV appearances here in North America and also in Germany. We do very well. The reason we called this the raven is because the raven is a survivor bird. It can survive at very hot and cold temperatures. We’re kind of survivors too. We really learned lots of hard lessons when we got here in 1987. I think the way it worked out mirrors our type of attitude to go through tough times and to help ourselves with little innovations. Ravens are very famous for that. They’re very innovative. They keep their life comfortable. The second reason is the raven is the Yukon national bird and its role on the native people’s history. The raven is thought to be the bird that brought the first people to the coastline. It is something very important in native life. We wanted to create a different name. We want someone to say the name and have it connected to quality food and accommodation. That’s what we’re doing.

Of course we have lots of ravens here and we have an open pit landfill site you go there two or three times a week to drop off your garbage. I’ve seen many things happen. I went to the dump and this young bald eagle. There was a raven hanging around this young bald eagle. It was picking out these feathers from its chest. The eagle was flapping its feathers and really didn’t like the raven to be so close. The raven would hop back and get closer again. By the time I got back with my camera the raven had taken off. It was neat to see. I think they’re competitors in the food chain and I think a bald eagle could easily kill a raven. I don’t think they’re good friends.

Another thing that comes to mind, walking our shepherd, this raven was waiting every day to play with our dog. It would come off a tree or a light post or a power pole and swoop down close to the dog’s head and almost touch it with its feet. The dog would jump and bark and wag its tail. The raven would fly down again. It happened for months and months. These birds are so smart.

In Whitehorse, they put their wings on the streetlights so it goes dark and the light sensor goes off and the light comes on and the heat develops. They hang out there. There was an article about that in the Yukon News.

The European tourists always comment about how the ravens are huge.

We don’t call them ravens at home. We call them crows. When I was a little boy I found one with a broken wing. I had a rabbit box. It was empty and I put the raven in there. I put tape on its wings and fed it for a while and got its wing up and going. That bird was so tame it would come back for days and days. I’ve always had an interest for these birds.

The guy here who grows potatoes here in town, he says the ravens go to his potatoes and dig out the potatoes and eat them. He has scarecrows in there. He asked one time if he could shoot one and set an example for the others, but I don’t think they allowed him that.

We have birdhouses. We have them everywhere on our property because we really like birds. This raven was sitting there the other day and there was a birdhouse hanging from the edge of the roof. This raven was standing on the roofs edge and with his beak was hammering against the birdhouse until it fell down.