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  • Writer's pictureMarkey Battle

Myths, Legends, and Magic : Storytelling as a form of Culture Preservation

Since the beginning of time, families, people groups, and strangers have told stories. 


One important tradition Indigenous people have carried throughout the years is the method of storytelling. This oral tradition has been passed on from generation to generation. 


Language loss, racism, and colonialism have caused Indigenous groups to cherish their stories, not wanting to let go, for fear they might be lost forever. 


In honour of National Indigenous History Month, we wanted to share a few myths, folklore, and stories from the original storytellers. 


The Girl and the Geese


wild geese flying in the sky
Credit: Pacific Wild

An Ojibway story. 


A young girl shivered in her wigwam, dreaming of warmer days. Her grandmother interrupted her dreams, asking her to find wiigwaas to patch the house before Ontario’s winter came. 


Nokomis, her grandmother, explained, “Pray and say miigwetch (thank you) for the gift of warmth before stripping the bark from the birch trees.” Nokomis continued, “Get two sacks of manoomin from the Elder by the lake. The geese are flying south, so move quickly.”


After hearing this, the girl planned to follow the geese somewhere warm.

The girl took the bark from the wiigwaas and rolled it into a scroll without saying a prayer or thanks. She collected the bags of wild rice from the Elder, neglecting to thank him too. 


Finally, she carried her findings to the geese, who were readying themselves for a journey. 


“In exchange for these bags of rice, you will wrap my arms in feathers.” The geese honked their approval. “I will hold this scroll between my teeth and flap my arms, you hold the scroll’s ends in your beaks.”


When Nokomis heard the geese flying above her wigwam, she looked up and saw her granddaughter flying alongside them. The girl waved at her grandmother. When the girl flew over the Elder, she waved a wing and said, “Look at me!”


She forgot about the scroll between her teeth and fell into the bags of rice. The geese dropped the scroll and continued their journey.


The Elder approached a grieving Nokomis with the girl in his arms. The girl apologized for being selfish and ungrateful. She thanked the birch as she stuffed blankets with the feathers on her arms and filled the wigwam’s patches with

birch from the scroll. 


The Elder rewarded her gratitude with two more bags of wild rice. 


That night, wrapped in the feather blanket and eating wild rice with her family in

a newly patched home, the girl was finally warm


The Blind Boy and the Loon


A blind inuit boy kneeling over to talk to a loon swimming towards him on a lake
Credit: Inhabit Media

This folktale comes from the Inuit and Athabaskan. 


A blind boy lived with his cruel mother and sister. When the family speared bears, the mother and sister would feast on the meat while the boy was forced to eat dog meat outside in the cold. 


When spring came, the boy found a loon at the lake. The loon told the boy that his mother blinded him out of hatred and revenge for his father’s actions. The boy climbed on the loon’s back and plunged underwater. Each time the pair resurfaced, the boy’s sight became more clear, until he could finally see again. 


Later, the boy and his sister hunted beluga whales, using each other as an anchor, so neither would fall into the water. When the mother saw them, she joined them. 


The boy tied his mother to him and told her to spear a big whale. The boy let go of his mother and let her plunge into the ocean. At the bottom of the ocean, the mother’s braids tie together to form a horn, transforming her into a narwhal.


Today, the narwhal is a reminder that only forgiveness can break the neverending chain of revenge.


Sedna


image of sedna, the spirit / goddess of the waters and all arctic water animals, with those animals making up her hair
Credit: Mythic Stories

Sedna’s story showcases Inuit’s dependence and reverence of nature. While the goddess has many stories, the most popular one originated from Iglulik, Nunavut. 


Sedna was courted by a skilled hunter who promised to provide for her. The man took her to an island, where he revealed he was a bird. Sedna’s father rescued her, but on the boat ride home, the two were attacked by a group of angry birds. 


The birds’ energy caused a ferocious storm to erupt and Sedna’s father threw her overboard to right the boat. Sedna held onto the boat’s edge until her father noticed and cut her fingers off, forcing her to sink into the ocean.


As her fingers fell into the sea, they transformed. The top joints became seals, the middle walrus, and the ends whales. Sedna became the mother to all sea creatures


Sedna hides sea creatures from disrespectful hunters who hunt more than needed. When she is upset, her sea creatures sprout in her tendrils. She will release the sea animals back into the ocean only when the people have learned their lesson. 


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These three stories are just a sampling of the rich culture and tales Indigenous people have shared throughout their history. Each story shares a lesson and provides insight to the culture’s values. We hope you celebrate this month by paying homage and respect to the land long before we came along. 


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