An Omaha Story: How to Count to 100
The Wisdom Story (from an elder gathering in Colorado)
Uses of Story Telling in the Classroom (Greg Sarris)
Discussion questions follow each story. For all
stories, discuss the power of storytelling itself:
In the old days, the people lived in peace and harmony. They lived on their land (now called the Channel Islands). Nature was good to them. They were happy, and you know what happens when people are happy. They make more people. Soon there were so many people that the land was too crowded.
The god Kokonupawa's voice thundered from the sky: "I will send some of you to new land. Pack all your things and meet down at the beach. You will go, and you, and these people, and these. The rest of you will stay." The people obeyed, packed their things, and met at the beach that night. Then Kokonupawa spoke again: "I will make you a bridge across the sea to your new land (what is now the Ventura, Santa Barbara area). You will be happy there, but do not look down as you are crossing the bridge; look straight ahead. If you look down, you will die."
In the morning they said good-bye to their friends and began crossing the rainbow bridge. It was a beautiful day. Sun gleamed off the turquoise water; the sky was bright blue. It was difficult to see where the sky ended and the water began. The light shining from the water looked like a million diamonds. Some of the people could not resist looking down at the diamonds. They began to fall down, down, down, into the water. Other people wanted to save them or look down, but they were afraid. They kept walking with their eyes straight ahead.
The goddess Hutash spoke from the earth. "Kokonupawa, have pity on your people. They are good people, and they are drowning." So Kokonupawa took pity on them. Soon the people under the water began to feel their bodies changing, growing sleek and firm. They swam easily and jumped out of the water and back in.
Their family and friends could see them from the shore, sleek, black dolphins, jumping in the water.
A young man wanted to become a respected elder, a member of the white shell society. An elder told him, "You must learn to count to 100." That is simple, the young man thought.
One day a homeless, dirty, skinny old woman limped into town. Some people looked at her and hurried away. Some stared and whispered behind their hands about her.
One old man had compassion for the old woman. "Grandmother, come in, rest," he said. He put his arm around her and took her into his home. He welcomed her in, offered her water. When she had rested and had some water, he gave her soup.
He called to his wife and daughters, "Help Grandmother wash and change. Put her in that buckskin dress I beaded for the give-away. Give her those new moccasins." The wife and daughters bathed the old woman, washed her hair and braided it, dressed her in new clothes.
Then the family invited her to live with them, to join the family.
Later the young man say the grandmother with her new family. "Is that the old homeless woman? Who did this?"
"That's one," the elder said.
In the old days the people were happy and peaceful. Everyone had special gifts to share with the others. Some were the keepers of the songs; some were keepers of the medicine; some were keepers of the wisdom.
Later some people started to ignore the wisdom; they changed the old truths. Then they started fighting with each other, lying, stealing.
The old ones said, "Let's gather up all the wisdom and hide it. These young ones are not ready for it yet." They couldn't decide where to hide it. One said, "Let's put it in a boat, tie it to a big rock, and sink it in the lake." Another said, "Oh no, you know them. They love to fish. Some day they'll find it, and they are not ready for it yet."
One old one said, "Let's hide it in a cave, deep in the back." Another said, "Oh no, you know them. They love to poke around They'll find it, and they are not ready for it yet."
One old one said, "Let's get eagle to fly it to the top of the highest mountain. They'll never find it there." Another answered, "Oh no, you know them. If they see a mountain they have to climb it. They'll find it, and they are not ready for it yet."
Finally one very old one said, "I've got it. Tonight while they are asleep, let's hide a little wisdom inside each of them. They'll never look for it there."
And that is just what they did. They hid that wisdom inside each and every one of us.Discuss with class:
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