There is one area that doesn’t get much attention in the writing world.
Indigenous short stories are generally stories that teach lessons with humour. The stories are made up and passed along so others can share them. Throughout the years, I’ve collected a few of these stories to share, mostly with the kids from the neighbourhood.
I make up stories and test them on young people. During the summer it’s nothing to have half a dozen eight- and 10-year-olds sitting outside my place with me telling them stories.
The stories include the Snow Snake, which is a snake that slithers around under the snow. It’s about a metre long with pink eyes and if it bites you, your body turns into a giant ice cube.
But the snow snake can only be found in the bush, so stay away from the bush during the winter.
The other story I enjoy telling the kids is the Spaghetti Tree. I ask the kids if they know where spaghetti comes from. Of course they don’t.
I told them how there are great spaghetti trees in China where the spaghetti hangs over the branches and all a person has to do is go by and slurp away. I told them how workers pick the spaghetti and lay it in a straight line in the sun until it is dry and cut into what is sold in stores today.
One of my favourite stories is about falling rocks.
There was a tribe of Indigenous people who lived in the mountains — the area which is known today as British Columbia. The small group was fighting a losing battle with substance abuse. The leaders, along with the elders, didn’t know what to do, so they asked one young man how he managed to stay away from what was taking the lives of so many people in his community.
He told them he fasted and asked the Creator for guidance. The group then asked the young man if he would fast for his people. The following morning, the young man headed for the mountains to start on his fast.
After four days the young man returned.
“I have great news,” he said. “Soon a warrior will arrive and save our nation.”
The young man then told the people to prepare.
“His name is Falling Rocks,” said the man.
For days, weeks, months and then years the tribe waited for Falling Rocks to come and save the people. The substance abuse spiralled out of control and people continued to die.
The spiral included all the dysfunction, violence, and insanity of substance abuse. Finally, there was only one member left. But he still believed this saviour would come. He decided to put up signs in case he died and there would be no one left. Which is why today you drive through the Rocky Mountains you will see the signs — Watch for Falling Rocks.
Some of the short stories include animals.
One is about an old wolverine that caught a fish. He decided to share the catch with his friend, the owl. It was a long journey to the owl’s home, but he decided to try anyway.
About halfway there, he got tired and a weasel approached him. The wolverine told the weasel about his ill health and the long journey. The weasel said he could take the fish to the owl.
The wolverine thanked the weasel and handed over the fish. But the weasel quickly grabbed the fish and headed straight into his hole to eat the fish. The wolverine sat there with tears coming from his eyes.
An eagle came by and asked what was wrong. The wolverine told the eagle about the weasel stealing the fish he was supposed to deliver to the owl.
The eagle told the wolverine he would look for the weasel. That’s why today the first thing a weasel does when it comes out of his den is look up towards the sky and snap his head around to make sure the eagle isn’t around.
Indigenous short stories are oral stories which are often told at gatherings. One thing is for sure; I’ll walk away with stories generations old and a lesson or two.