AADIZOOKAANAG -- Traditional Stories, Legends and Myths

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Aadizookaan -- means (in Anishinaabemowin, or Ojibwe language) "a traditional story", what anthros and others seem to like calling legends or myths. These are -- or in their original, were -- often sacred. Those represnt large themes of human existence: where we came from, how we should live, reconcilliation to the tragedies of life, thankfulness There are smaller stories: teaching, humorous, answering "Why?" questions about natural phenomena and behavior. Finally, traditional indigenous peoples had no TV, no books; stories were entertainment, too.

TO THOSE WHO TRANSCRIBE NATIVE MYTHS: Our myths appear popular as NuAge web page fillers. Native myths, as opposed to tall tales and little stories for children, are not entertainment. It is important that you cite the source from which you transcribed it, the collector or non-Indian reteller-translator of the myth, and if given, the original teller. And, of course, the tribe.

I think Native myths are meaningless removed from cultural context, but if there is any educational value to them, they must be identified with a specific people, time, and place. Some retellers are reliable. Others sanitize and restructure stories, making them worthless as a means to learn about a culture -- a kind of racism, where retellers believe Native myths (which are often owned by specific individuals or families) are merely primitive raw material for their own literary efforts, often crude and condescending. There are cultural property (individual, tribal, cultural patrimony) and religious issues involved as well. Link is to a new web page discussing those issues.

For most myths linked-to below, I have usually had to make such identifications as my small personal library will provide. I'm no expert, so if anyone from those tribes has more info, I'd be glad to get it.

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Innu Nation Official Site Located in Labrador, Canada, this site provides the best way to approach Native culture or to learn about that of other tribes. You can learn tribally-prepared history, about the mineral exploration-exploitation going on, and the damaging overflights of European jets from a nearby military training base. Cultural and historical background, and the current situation, not just isolated "myths and legends" is provided, Too often in attempts to present "historical context" for a tribe's stories, it is as if their history stopped 500 years ago -- never true. The Missatinni website fosters real understanding. Explore everything, not just the stories. This site is a fine blend of both Aadizookaanag -- traditional, and Dibaajimowinan -- carefully-weighed contemporary facts and narratives. You can help their story continue by contributing to their Defence Fund, maybe buying a poster.

STAR STORIES -- Many Tribes Excellent large collection of star (and solar, lunar and similar) stories. These are almost Little Why Stories for children. They are IDed by tribe, not by teller and no sources are given (all are transcribed from a couple of books). Page is maintained by an astronomer at the University of Western Washington, who may further annotate, expand and reorganize them -- he seeks more info, versions, and additional star stories. The rest of the site is astonommy, physics, space, but Cosmological quotes -- short sayings from India-Indian, Native, Chinese, and many other cultures (such as the Tribe of Scientists) generally philosophical as well as cosmological and interesting to compare.


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Page prepared by Paula Giese graphics and layout copyright 1995, 1996

Last updated: 1/11/97