SCIENCE AND NATIVE STORYTELLING


COSMOS
, CREATION STORIES, FOUR ELEMENTS
GREAT BLUE BOWL & UNIVERSE

(all stories are copyrighted)

 

 

Watch this powerful youtube video on what
happens when we violate
Mother's Earth's teachings and instructions

http://www.youtube.com/embed/nGeXdv-uPaw

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION: Back in the time before time began, Storytellers did not have Science to explain natural phenomena. What they had were their own vivid imaginations based on practical observations of the world around them. How did the Sun rise in the sky, why do the tides come in twice a day? What is the role of the great Thunderbird? How did Aurora Borealis come to be? and one and on.  As you read through the page you will discover for yourself that there is little difference between scientific explanation and Native observation!

 


 CELESTIAL MAGIC 

 

 In ancestral times, Native people built villages and cities that aligned with rising or setting suns; solstices and equinoxes, ceremonies were based on the constellations, the stones of the medicine wheels found in Southern Alberta and scattered across the Plains are thought to have been designed in concert with the trajectory of the Sun's path.  Stories abound as to the special relationship between the cosmos and Indigenous People. A number of Indigenous peoples created great holes in the earth called Achivas as places to do sacred ceremony. Spirit Doctors for the most part used Achivas to do their most sacred work; it was thought that at the destruction of each of the ages of humankind, the pure of heart could go into the Achivas which represented the heart and protection of Noo Haidzoks (Mother Earth) and wait to be reborn into a new cosmos.

 

Universe Speaks: "Every day I bring you powerful lessons on the sacredness and importance of the inter-connectedness, balance and harmony among all living things in both the seen and unseen worlds. I am the engine that drives Native beliefs. Come with me on a sacred dance of understanding and sweet discovery."

 

 

 

AIR - HA

 

Air is spirit, the breath of life. Each time a breath is taken in, the spirit swells; each time a breath is exhaled it goes on to be inhaled by another living being, a plant, an animal, another human.  Where is the breath that was inhaled two months ago? It is out there and will come back again. True spirit is found in the silence between voice and drum or between drum beats when Air suspends all thoughts for a second and the Ancestors speaks. Air also gathers itself and warns of impending change (tornado, hurricanes, thunderbirds); humans should take note when this occurs.

 

Air carries the visions and dreams to my heart where they rest and wait to be acknowledged. Air connects me with all living beings in both the seen and unseen worlds. Air is life, Air is healing, air allows the spirit to soar and carry prayers to my Ancestors.

 

Air Speaks: "If you think you cannot feel Spirit, say the word "HOPE" and "FAITH"- breathe the 'H' and the 'F'. Peaceful air surrounds those consonants. As long as you breathe there is hope, as long as you breathe there is faith in spirit, for I am around you, in you. Keep me clean so that I can continue to sustain you."

 

 

 

ANISHINABE (OJIBWA) CREATION STORIES

 

Gitchie Manitou (Creator) took four parts of Mother Earth (earth, wind, fire, and water) and blew into them using a Sacred Shell [the Megis or Cowrie Shell]. From the union of the Four Elements and breath, Anishinabe Man (later known as Way-na-boo'zho) was lowered to the Earth and all Anishinabe peoples came from him. 

 

Meaning of Anishinaabe:  Ani - from whence; nishina - lowered; Abe - male.

 


Nana'b'oozoo (also called Nanabush) is the Culture Hero of the Mi'maq. He is very high profile in terms of the creation and organization of the world. Nanabush is a shapeshifter taking on various animals forms in order to put the world in balance. He coaxed the various seasons to come to the Maritimes; he helped Turtle to protect itself by giving it a hard shell in which its head and feet could be pulled inwards and also to live comfortably both on land and in the water. He was also sent to teach the Ojibwa many things including the names he had given to the plants and animals. He also taught them about kindness, honesty, generosity, truth, wisdom, love, respect, and humility.

 


Gitchie Manitou, sent wolf to keep Way-na-boo-zhoo, company. Later he ordered Original Man and Wolf to go different ways. Wolf and man have similar characteristics because both mate for life, have a clan system and a tribe, have had their land taken from them, have been hunted for their hair, have been pushed close to extinction and are recovering.

 

As a result of the separation of Wolf and Original Man, dogs (the brother of contemporary humans and direct relative of wolf) are not allowed at sacred ceremonies. Dogs are supposed should be kept away from ceremonial objects, such as regalia, pipes, food, as it was thought they could endanger the life of an Ojibwa.

 

 

 

 

G'AYAAWXL - AURORA BOREALIS (Northern Lights)
AURORA AUSTRALIS (Southern Lights)

 

Aurora Borealis surrounds the northern magnetic pole; it produces an ionosphere when atomic particles strike and excite atoms which causes the northern world to dance in exotic and mystical ways. The Northern Lights are constantly in motion because of the changing interaction between the solar wind and the earth's magnetic field.

Aurora Australis  seen as a luminous halo of light around the south magnetic pole. On rare occasions both poles simultaneously bathe the Earth Mother in light. 

 


 

First Nations (Tsimshian) Explanation

 

'White' Raven burst from the mountains into a darkened world. He was constantly banging into mountains, trees and falling into the great waters because he could not see where he was going. Raven also noted that the humans were also having trouble seeing.  Being kind of nature, and  the quintessential problem-solver of the Pacific Northwest coast, Raven set about figuring out how he could help himself and the humans.  Well, there is a long saga about the adventures he and his human twin brother, Raven Watcher while trying to find light.  Suffice it to say, that they eventually found the light, but while trying to escape, Raven flew up through the smoke hole of Father Sky's house, and as a result became covered in soot and smoke; most of his beautiful cloak of white feathers was permanently changed to shimmering black. He escaped over the North Pole and flew in a complete circle around the world, all the while frantically trying to rid himself of the black and colourful ashes. As he sped over the North Pole, the lights danced off his feathers each time he shook himself and shards of dancing light cascaded everywhere.  Aurora Borealis was born.

 

 

Raven then thought if he flew very straight the rest of the soot which fly off his body.  It didn't work;  by the time he flew around the South Pole, he was so frustrated that he started to shake himself again, but by this time he was tired and very little in the way of dancing colour fell from his body. Aurora Australis was born.

Raven finally gave up. It didn't take him long to admire his new mysterious, black 'rakish' look and to think himself quite the handsome fellow. To this day, the celestial dance of Aurora Borealis is one of the reminders of how Raven brought light to the world. 

 

There us much difference between the two explanation is there? The Native Storytellers had a true and profound understanding of the world they lived in so many thousands of years ago.

 

 

 

 

 NOO HALIDZOKS -  COPPER WOMAN

 

Copper Woman is the embodiment of all things spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically powerful about women and their relation to the Mother Earth, as they are both life-givers.  Women's knowledge held the tribes together. They fought hard to hold the communities together in the face of increasing pressure from the Black Robes and Christianity.  It was the women who made the decisions and advised their men what to do. 

Copper Woman knew who she was, why she was here, and what she needed to do - a woman, in other words, comfortable in her own skin and confident in her knowledge. She gave birth to the world secure in the knowledge that it would be a gracious, balanced and harmonious place.

She goes by other names:  Noo Halidzoks (Mother Earth); She Who Remembers, Sky Woman (See Mother Earth Below)

 



MOTHER EARTH  


Mother Earth came in the dream time, in a time before time began. All the richness of life comes from her. She who lives in harmony with all living things. Native people beat the drum as a symbol of  her heartbeat. We sing to her, we cry for her and we seek connections to her. We put down tobacco in thanks for the bounty she provides. We send our prayers for her safety on the smoke of sage, cedar and sweet grass. Native people know that Humans are simply one small part of an endless universe. Yet,  people seek to conquer and destroy that which nurtures and sustains us. Mother Earth cries with dismay at our disrespect. We must begin the process, before it is too late to reconnect to our Earth Mother and to root ourselves in her sanctity and glory.

 

Knowledge from Mother Earth: "I am the great circle of life, the sacred hoop, the medicine wheel. My hoop hums in total balance and harmony with my heartbeat. I created four major groups of living beings, and within those groups, four groups new and so on: The four Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water): Standing People, Plants, Grasses, Vegetables; Those that walk on four legs, those swim, those that crawl and those that fly; Red, Black, Yellow and White races and on and on. All are equal for all living things are your relatives.  Everything and everyone has purpose; Everything and everyone has great value.

 

How you live your life within the great circle is part of your spiritual journey - if you are angry, remorseful, and bitter, then that is how your earth walk is going to be and my heart dies a little. My Hawaiian Red Children have a saying, "As you think so it is."  That is why we must see life as sacred.  Everyday should be a good day with good thoughts and good feelings because you never know when you are going to walk to your day of quiet."

 

 

 

 

  

He Walks All Over the Sky (The Sun, Moon, and Stars) 
Tsimshian Story

 

Back in the long ago when the sky was completely dark, there was a chief who had two sons, a younger son, One Who Walks All Over the Sky, and an older son, Walking About Early. The younger son was sad to see the sky always so dark, so he made a mask out of wood and pitch (the Sun) and lit it on fire. 

 

 

Each day he travelled across the sky. At night he slept below the horizon, and when he snored sparks flew from the mask and made the stars. The older brother became jealous. To impress their father he smeared fat and charcoal on his face (the Moon) and made his own path across the sky.

 

 

 

 

 HAUDENNOSAUNNE CREATION STORIES

 

Long, long ago, one of the Spirits of the Sky World came down and looked at the earth. Spirit found the earth to be beautiful and created people and food. Before returning to the sky, Spirit gave them names:

 

"To the Mohawks, I give corn,"  To the patient Oneida, I give the nuts and the fruit of many trees. To the industrious Seneca, I give beans. To the friendly Cayuga, I give the roots of plants to be eaten. To the wise and eloquent Onondaga, I give grapes and squash to eat and tobacco to smoke at the camp fires."

 

Many other things Spirit told the new people. Then Spirit was wrapped in a bright cloud and went like a swift arrow to the Sun. Their Spirit's returned causing the other Sky Spirits to rejoice.

 


 

TURTLE ISLAND. In the beginning the new world consisted only of vast oceans.  There was no land. Father Sky and his wife were admiring a beautiful tree - lush leaves and fruit, rich, dark bark.  Father Sky's wife told him that she had a great vision which called for him to pull the tree up by its roots, leaving a large hole in the sky. 

 

Father Sky was sad, for he thought the tree quite beautiful, but he also recognized the power of his wife's vision. He wrapped his arms around the tree, gave a mighty heave, and uprooted the tree.  Grasping hold of part of the tree, the woman looked through the hole, as she stretched a little further, she lost her footing and fell through.

 

The animals that were able to live in the water, turtle, beaver, whale and many others, looked up and saw the woman falling towards them.  "What will we do," they cried. "If she lands, she will drown!" Two swans unfurled their beautiful white wings, flew up and caught the woman; they brought her down where they floated on the waves.  Everyone knew this could not go on for long, for the the swans would tire, and at some point the woman would need to sit down.

 

One by one the animals swam to the bottom of the ocean to see if they could bring up a little earth.  The big whales tried, Otter tried, animals large and small, all tried. Finally, everyone was floating on top of the water very tired from all their efforts.  Little Muskrat swam over and shyly said, "I think I can do it."  The other animals were too exhausted to even laugh at the thought.  She took a deep breath and dove as far as she could.  It took several tries, but finally, totally exhausted she floated to the surface with a little earth in her paw. "What will I do with it now?" she gasped. Turtle swam over, "Put it on my back, I have a broad back," he said. 

 

Immediately the land began to grow until it was big enough for the swans to step on shore and let the woman down.  She let go from her hands some seeds that came from the sacred tree she had been holding onto when she fell through the hole.  The land grew and grew and along with it, forests, grasses, plants and vegetables.  it was a wondrous sight, and that is how North America came to be created, and subsequently to be called Turtle Island because the shape of the land is that of a turtle.

 

 

 

 

LAK - FIRE

 

Cree Culture Hero, Coyote was passing by a human village when he heard the women singing a song of mourning for the babies and the old ones who had died in the cold winter. Coyote knew that the Fire Beings lived atop a mountain and kept the fire to themselves, jealously guarding it for fear that the humans might acquire it and become as strong as they. Coyote saw that he could do a good turn for the humans at the expense of the selfish Fire Beings. He noted that, except for early in the morning there was only one sleepy guard on duty. Coyote waited and watched; he quickly dashed forward grabbing a burning ember and raced away; there were many adventures with the fire beings giving chase. Coyote eventually managed to bring the fire to the humans who were now able to live in warmth.

 

Fire Speaks: "I symbolizes the heart of The People.  I am present at all ceremonies in one form or another, from smoke in a smudge bowl or pipe carrying prayers to Great Mystery, to the blazing fire at a Sun Dance or Feast. I cleanse the spirit. I heat the Grandfathers (rocks) before they are placed in a sweatlodge. My smoke carries your prayers to your Ancestors. I cleanse sacred items before ceremonial use (drums, shakers, pipes) because I represent renewal; out of the ashes comes new growth, new thoughts, rebirth of ideas and new ways of being; the plant world regenerates itself in a healthy way from the ashes of the old.  

 

I am a Messenger. When I am in ceremony I should never be extinguished manually, but allowed to dance until I decide it is time for sleep. All My Relations." 

 

 

 

MI'KMAQ CREATION STORY

 

Gisoolg is the non-gendered Great Spirit Creator who made everything. The word Gisoolg in Mi'Kmaq means "you have been created". It also means "the one credited for your existence".

 

The Mi'kmaq people do not explain how the Great Spirit came into existence only that Gisoolg is responsible for creating the world. Gisoolg created Nisgam [Sun] to help in heating and lighting the world. 

 

Ootsitgamoo [Earth] was created by Gisoolg and was placed in a position where it could travel in a circle around Nisgam bringing to the world nights and days; this circular motion would allow Nisgam to safeguard the earth.  Birds, animals and water beings were all made when Ootsitgamoo was created.

 

Gisoolg sent a bolt of lightening which caused the formation of a human body, thus the first human, Glooscap was formed out of a basic element of the Mi'Kmaq world, sand.

 

One day when Glooscap was travelling in the east he came upon a very old woman. Glooscap asked the old woman how she arrived in the Mi'Kmaq world. The old woman introduced herself as Nogami. "I am your grandmother, and I  owe my existence to the rock, the dew and Nisgam, the Sun." Nogami,the grandmother of the stone family went on to helpd Glooscap with many things.

 

Glooscap then met Netaoansom who was his nephew. He was very strong and Nogami said that if Glooscap relied on Netaoansom's strength, he would gain much strength and understanding of his new world.

 

A woman came to the fire and sat beside Glooscap. Her name was Neganogonimgooseesgo, Glooscap's mother. She came from a leaf and was warmed by Nisgam who gave her life. She brought with her all the colours the world would need; she also brought strength and understanding of the earth's natural forces, its animals and her children, the Mi'Kmaq so that they could learn to live in peace and harmony with one another.

 

 

 

 

 

MILKY WAY

 

Science: The Milky Way is a spiral, a family of 150 billion stars.  Our Sun is but one of these stars - two-thirds of the way from the centre and orbiting the galactic centre once every 225 million years. The heart of the Milky Way is choked with gas and dust and seethes with energy.  Distances within our galaxy, and beyond, are measured in light years - the distance travelled by light in one year.  The disk of the Milky Way is 100,000 light years across.  Our Solar System lies 30,000 light years from the galactic centre.

 

First Nations: In the beginning there was only darkness. Fox said that people on the other side of the world had plenty of light but were too greedy to share it. Possum went to try and steal a little piece of the light. He found the Sun hanging in a tree, lighting everything up. He took a tiny piece of the Sun and hid it in the fur of his tail. The heat burned the fur off his tail. That is why possums have bald tails. Buzzard tried next. He tried to hide a piece in the feathers of his head. That is why buzzards have bald heads. Grandmother Spider tried next. She made a clay bowl. Then she spun a web (Milky Way) across the sky reaching to the other side of the world. She snatched up the whole sun in the clay bowl and took it back home to our side of the world. (Cherokee)

 

Tsimshian - Mediik (Grizzly Bear) gave a great yawn and started nosing around for food.  He had slept a long time and was very hungry.  Without realizing what he was doing his wanderings took him to the base of the high mountains; he looked up and saw a vast sky. Thinking the sky would be good hunting he slowly began to climb.  The higher he climbed the closer he came to the snow and ice that were blanketing the top of the mountain. Ice pellets and snow soon became attached to his fur; it made the climb more difficult. Eventually, Mediik made it to the sky and started ambling across it; his body began to warm up and fur became quite hot as the sun gazed down at him.  The ice and snow fell off forming a huge cloud - it became the Milky Way.

 

Milky Way Speaks: "My Red children also call me Wolf Road. Wolf is the teacher and protector of family. I stand strong in the confidence of my own knowledge and howl my messages to all who choose to hear me. I live within special clouds. They are your consciousness which sometimes can be shrouded in uncertainty and confusion. When my light of realization and understanding is upon you, you will emerge into the starlight of your own wisdom and knowledge. See me, hear me, walk on my road to peace and enlightenment."

 

 

 

 

 

GYEMGM AATK - MOON

 

She moves elegantly around Mother Earth every 27 days. She is responsible for the earth's waters, and controls the tides as her energy merges with Mother Earth's heartbeat and causes the oceans to move. She is the light in a darkened world and stands as a beacon of faith and hope.

 

She is the queen of feminine life and is quintessentially female energy. Strong, Fair, Kind, Generous, Inspired, Dreaming, Nurturing, Intelligent. The female body throughout its lifetime goes through many profound internal changes from childhood to Elder. Gyemgm Aatk is with each woman constantly and provides the balance needed during the changes. 

 

Woman's life-giving gift to to the future of the world gives her a powerful voice in how the world is shaped.  It is this voice that Gyemgm Aatk encourages women to use in the service of the sisterhood and the safety and protection of Mother Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 PLAINS -
WHITE BUFFALO CALF WOMAN

 

A beautiful woman brought secret and very sacred knowledge to the Lakota people. It was said that she first appeared to two young hunters. She was wearing a shimmering white tanned leather dress which was beautifully embroidered with porcupine quills in exquisite patterns. One of the young men was overtaken by lust, and  rushed toward her.  She smiled, and a soft white cloud descended. When it passed, the woman stood alone and the young man was now a pile of bones at her feet. 

 

The second hunter recognized that she was from another world.  She instructed the man to return to his village and set his people to building a huge sacred tent, and to wait for her arrival. When she entered the village,  the people were awed by her presence. Walking seven times around the central fire, she spoke to them, giving them a bag containing a sacred pipe and seven teachings that went with it. She reminded them of the mysteries of their mother, the earth.

 

 

     

 

As she left the camp she rolled on the ground and came up as a golden buffalo, she rolled again, this time changing to a black buffalo, she rolled again and stood as a red buffalo. She rolled one last time, and appeared in the shape of a white buffalo [honouring the four colours of human]. Her final words to the Lakota were to always honour her with gifts and ceremony, and that one day, when they really needed her she would return.

(Note:  Many Lakota feel that White Buffalo Calf Woman returned in 1994 when the first white buffalo, named Miracle was born; since then a fair number of other white buffalo along with other white animals of peace have been born.)


 

 

 

 RAINBOW - MAAXII  


Science: Traditional rainbow is sunlight spread out into its spectrum of colors and diverted to the eye of the observer by water droplets. The "bow" part of the word describes the fact that the rainbow is a group of nearly circular arcs of color all having a common center.

 

 

Tsimshian:  Sun Cloud was very sad.  He had fallen in love with a beautiful dancing star but somehow she always remained just out of reach. He thought about how he could make himself bigger. Sun Cloud took a deep breath and tried to expand himself so that he could surround her. He felt himself grow wider and taller.  He waited for the Star to appear; he could hold on any longer and let his breath go; Dancing Star was caught up in the whirlwind of Sun Cloud's breath; his tears of despair at not being able to capture her and her brilliant light formed the first rainbow.

 

Rainbow Speaks: "See my glorious colours. I am an uplifting sign of rejuvenation, positive energy and beauty. Stand in the light of your own inner rainbow where there are no shadows and elevate yourself. When you do, Mother Earth's heartbeat grows stronger."

 

 

 

 

STAR NATION - BIYAALS

 

There are different opinions about the stars. Some say they are balls of light, others say they are human, but most people say they are living creatures covered with luminous fur or feathers. They are kind and gentle souls and bring laughter and brightness to a sad world.  Sometimes they explode in a fiery dance, other times they lead lost souls back to their homes.

 


DANCING STARS The Leonid Meteor shower in 1833 was duly recorded by the Lakota; the Maricopa used calendar sticks with notches to represent the passage of a year. The owner of one stick claimed records had been kept that way "since the stars fell." The first notch on his stick represented 1833; A member of the Papago, named Kutox, was born around 1847 or 1848. He claimed that 14 years prior to his birth "the stars rained all over the sky."

 

Star Nation Speaks:  "Look up, look up, I guide you to where you need to be. Climb your mountain, do not be afraid, courage and determination are within you. You need only listen to your inner song and know you can climb the highest of mountains and triumph. When you can travel no more and you walk to your day of quiet, you will become a star and shine where everyone can see you - you shall become a celestial Inukshuk to guide all livings things on earth and in Father Sky. All My Relations."

 

 

 

 


SUN - GYEMK

 

 

Once the world was in darkness; Raven kept falling into trees and banging into mountains because he could not see; he was also disturbed because the darkened world belonged to the ghost people. Humans were dying from hunger and thirst because they could not see where they were going.  Through a series of escapades Raven was finally able to steal the sun from Grandfather Sky who had selfishly kept it hidden in a box. Raven made his escape through the smoke hole of Grandfather Sky's house, and flung it up into the sky.  Most of the ghost people were incinerated by the Sun's light, although a few managed to escape and return from time to time to haunt us with their displeasure; the people were happy they could see.

The Sun Speaks: "I am the sustainer of all life on earth. I control the cycles of men. I protect the world with my life-giving energy. I work in concert with my mate Grandmother Moon. Father Sky and Mother Earth are also integral parts of my celestial circle -- the four of us create Great Mystery's most powerful and sacred quaternity." 

 

 

 

 

 


THUNDERBIRD - TS'ITS'AMTI
(Painting by Thunderbird)

 

In the world of Indigenous people, Thunderbird is a symbol of power, strength and nobility and a special envoy of Father Sky and the AncestorsI am often asked if I was named after the car! I suggest that because my Ancestors were here first, the car was named after me. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

 

Thunderbird's normal role is to act on behalf of those who are weaker than himself. He is unafraid to challenge greater powers than himself, although they are few and far between (Mother Earth and Father Sky being two of them), and to assist The People with their everyday lives. He is rather reclusive and prefers not to have anyone near his home which is high up in the mountains. If people come to close, he sends huge shards of ice and snow tumbling down the mountains (avalanches).  Also, in his need for solitude he surrounds himself often with great darkness and fog so he cannot be seen.

 

Science explains Thunder as a sound that follows a flash of lightning, caused by the sudden heating and expansion of air by electrical discharge. A gifted Native Storyteller would offer a more vivid, yet similar explanation which, again, shows the close relationship between modern scientific enquiry and the deep knowledge held by Turtle Island's ancient peoples.

 

Pacific Northwest version: Thunderbird is the most powerful of all the supernatural creatures and an important crest on the Pacific Northwest Coast. He is a majestic presence; under his huge wing span are two shards of lightening each with the head of a snake. When Thunderbird blinks his red eyes, lightening flashes, when he moves his giant wings the air rolls messages of impending change(s) across the sky; the wind and rain follow to implement the change(s) and cleanse Mother Earth. It also reminds humans to not be afraid to acknowledge the changes coming in their lives; it is always better to step forward with courage to meet those changes, rather than cower in a corner and wait for things to happen. Thunderbird is powerful energy and medicine that demands humans to listen to the rhythms of the Earth Mother and to their own inner rhythms. 

 

Science explains Lightning as a flash of light in the sky caused by the discharge of atmospheric electricity from one cloud to another or between a cloud and the earth. It originates some 20,000 feet above sea level and makes its way toward the earth in a series of 'steps', hence its unique shape.

 

 

Pacific Northwest version: Thunderbird rose from his sleep and started to makes his way across the sky. He was surrounded by soft clouds.  He shook his huge wings to wake himself up with a rumbled song. Under his wings the two lightning snakes that were also asleep roused themselves and looked around. A flash of red fire was seen as Thunderbird blinked his eyes. At the same time they felt the shudder of the huge wing span as Thunderbird jerked his body and sent the lightning snakes flashing towards earth. Grandfather Sky lit up with the spiral flow of their journey and the message was received by those who chose to see and hear it.

 

When Thunderbird was hungry he ate whales and otters. Thunderbird grasped the two Lightning Snakes under its wings and threw them down onto a surfacing whale. Thunderbird then swooped down and picked it up in its talons and flew with it to the mountains to devour it. Knowing of its skill in striking whales, a whale hunter would paint a Lightening Snake on his canoe, and then paint over the image so it would not be seen by the whale so it wouldn't be scared away. The mere power of its presence on the canoe would aid the hunter to make a strike.  

 

Story: One day, Orca swam into a bay and the Salmon were frightened away. Soon the people began to starve and called out to the Thunderbird for help. Thunderbird swooped down, grabbed orca and carried him far out to  sea. The Salmon returned and the people were no longer hungry. Thus the Thunderbird was known as a protector of the people and deeply revered.  In return for his help, The People agreed to honour Thunderbird at their ceremonies and make him one of their highest crests. This is not to say that Orca, another very powerful spirit did not battle hard. It is said that on one memorable occasion Thunderbird and Orca fought so hard the thunder from their battle caused many trees to shatter and fall, which explains the treeless areas near the coastal mountains.

 

Story: Thunderbird flew around the moon. It was one of those crisp nights when the warm months were waning to a time of rest for Mother Earth. The silver Grandmother was not full, because part of her was resting and waiting for its time to shine.  Parts of her needed to rest each cycle because her job was demanding.

 

Thunderbird was restless feeling a need to be free from the dark thoughts that had been crowding his mind. He was worried about The People. They were fighting among themselves, not treating each other in a good way, raising fists in anger and voices in rage. They were not listening to him even though he could be very, very loud. He knew the Earth Mother was also sad at this turn of events because hate, disrespect and jealousy had not been built into the original world.

 

He looked at the silver Grandmother and heard a voice. "Do not fear, my son for there will come a time when the bonds that hold The People in this dark void will fall away and once more they will dance into the light of understanding and enchantment. Continue to send them your rumbling messages of care and protection. They need you and will hear you in their time." Thunderbird was content that his job had been reaffirmed.

 

Thunderbird Speaks: "Listen to my song. I speak when the weather is warm. I bring lightning, ride it to a more enlightened consciousness. I bring change to the world, to individual life. Listen to my song for I carry the history of your people. Listen to my song, we are in the seventh fire and great change is coming. Listen." 

 

 

 

 

TSIMSHIAN CREATION STORY 
(Pacific Northwest Coast)
 

 

RAVEN & NOO HALIDZOKS (MOTHER EARTH)


Raven burst from the mountains and stretched out his wings. West Wind swooped in and lifted him off his rocky perch.  Soon he had mastered how to fly.  One day as he was flying up the coast he spied a woman standing on the land near the great waters [Pacific Ocean].  He flew down, and called, "Woman, who are you?"

 

"I am Noo Halidzoks [Mother Earth]," she replied. "I have been waiting for you, there is much to do."  Raven looked at her a little skeptically, "Work, you want me to work? I've been entombed in the mountains for so long, I just want to fly free."  The woman raised her hand, and immediately one of Raven's wings folded, she raised her other hand, and his other wing folded, sending him crashing to the ground, where he squawked in a most indignant manner.

 

"Take this basket of water", she said. "I haven't time to create the rivers, ponds, lakes and streams. You can do it much faster."  Soon, Raven returned with many stories about his adventures. "Take these seeds," she said, placing another basket in his beak, and fly north; stay near where the land meets the water, and scatter the seeds, take them a little inland as well." Raven sped away to do as he was asked.  Soon giant fir trees and many other kinds of vegetation began their travels towards the sun.  

 

Noo Halidzoks had always understood the Air, Fire and Water were already part of her heart and were the strongest of everything in her world. She then created the second most powerful of her children:  the standing people [trees], plants, grasses and vegetables; she then created her third most powerful children: those that walk on four legs, those that swim, those that crawl and those that fly. Much time had passed, and Noo Halidzoks was beginning to slow down, she was quite aged and very tired from all her work.  She stood talking with Raven one day, who told her she had done a good job, "Of course, without me," he crowed, "it never would have happened." Noo Halidzoks just sighed, "it would have happened a lot sooner, if you had not gotten into so much trouble."  Raven looked a little chastened.

 

Noo Halidzoks had one task left. She laid wood on the ground, and lit it on fire; west wind came in an fanned the fire until it was blazing.  She then boiled some water and into it put some red things, at the end of day one, she created a red male and female; on day two she mixed together some yellow things, and created a yellow male and female; on day three she mixed black things and created a black female and male and one day four she mixed white things and created a white female and male.  She held their hands and looked at how wonderfully the four colours went together. She spoke a long time to her children about their place in the world, how they were the weakest of all she created because they would need everything to live.  She gave them much knowledge and instruction about looking after her, and then sent them away to populate: red children to the west, black children to the south, white children to the north and yellow children to the east. The story continues...........

 

Excerpt from my musical, Daughter of the Copper Shield.

 

 

 

 

WATER - AKS

 

"Before the earth was created, a vast expanse of water existed where many birds and animals lived and swam. In the Skyland above the waters, where the ancient Chief and his people lived, grew the Great Tree that bore fruits and flowers of all types......"

 

This is how many Indigenous Creations stories begin. In other words, the beginning of the world was assumed as far as air and water were concerned. The Tsimshian people, for example, do not have any creation stories that talk about how the universe came to be, how air and water came into existence - they were simply always there. However there are exceptions:

 

LAKOTA There was another world before this one. But the people of that world did not behave themselves. Displeased, Original Creator (Wakan Tanka) decided to make a new world. Wakan Tanka sang several songs to bring rain, which poured stronger with each song. By the fourth song, the earth split apart and water gushed up through the many cracks, causing a flood. By the time the rain stopped, all of the people and nearly all of the animals had drowned. Only Kangi the crow survived.

 

NAVAJO The people traveled through four worlds before climbing a reed growing from the bottom of the Lake of Changing Waters to this present world.

 

 

TSIMSHIAN SONG:

"I tumble and I roll
Tears clear your soul
I bring rain to clean the land
I breathe and you live another day
Indivisible as air

I am lakes, rivers, streams and brooks
I am wetlands, swamps, lagoons, and pools
I am watersheds, waterfalls, seas and oceans
I am liquid magic
I am liquid magic

I am clear, I am clean, I am soothing
I am ice and clouds and sleet and snow
I am darkness, thickness. waves and motion
I am warm, I am cold, I am female
You cannot live without me
I am liquid magic."

(Music/Lyrics: Shannon Thunderbird, copyrighted)

 

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE INDIGENOUS ORAL NARRATIVE: AN OVERVIEW

 

Father Sky continued to turn (meaning as the years went by) more and more technology has entered the lives of humans, and my role as a keeper of sacred knowledge began to fade. It all started "back in the day" with the invention of the printing press which started the erosion of the oral narrative. The stories became words in books, but the subtle nuances, understandings and knowledge were lost. They became 'stand alone' narratives and the connections to the culture from which they originated was irretrievably severed. Moreover, the Internet has shrunk the planet even more and people can  move around wherever they desire even to the most remote places with the simple click of a mouse.  It seems that this encroachment into unfamiliar territory includes collecting and retelling cultural histories without a real understanding of the culture from which the narratives come. And....we no longer have the patience to sit quietly and listen to the truth.

 

Unfortunately, today the modern teller is seen merely as an entertainer primarily for children, who works for very little (expectation usually being no payment) and simply recites words. A far cry from the once important person who had professional  status in the community.

 

As a chronicler of Indigenous culture, I am reclaiming the honour and professionalism as a cultural guardian charged with the responsibility of being a powerful voice of change within the modern world. This vital aspect risks being lost in the mists of time as the world speeds up and our attention spans wane.

 

The true role of the Narrator is to teach about our cultures cultures, morals, spirituality, laws, and social values, that govern a community. Using the Oral Narrative as the forum, knowledge, values and beliefs are passed to future generations. Wilwilaaysk, All My Relations.

 

For a variety of stories and meanings

 

 Animal: A-M   

 

 

Animal: N-Z           

   

 

 

 

 

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