Ojibwe Oral Tradition

DSC_0081pinnableThe oral tradition of passing down stories to the next generation is incredibly important to the Native Americans.  In the past it was the main way they kept their traditions alive.  Treuer, author of Living our Language states, ‘A language carries a people’s memories, whether they are recounted as individual reminiscences, as communal history, or as humorous tales’  It is these memories which must be passed on to give the next generation a sense of who they are and from where they come.

Current read alouds

The Ojibwe oral tradition crops up time and again in The Birchbark House, where both Deydey (father) and Nokomis (grandmother) relay stories either from their past or from their current adventures.  However we first came across it in the Native American History for Kids book which we read during week 1.  An activity that was suggested in this book was to have the children retell a memory from their past.  I had them do this as a written narration first (Traditions of Old).  My goal was to teach them particular methods of retelling a story orally and have them give their siblings a proper oral rendition of it.

In order to teach the children a bit more about the Ojibwe oral tradition, we read the following book:

DSC_0195ojibweoraltraditions

This book was a collection of different Ojibwe stories.  On the left hand page they were written in Ojibwe and on the right they were translated into English.  I read a few out each day during our morning meeting.  The children found the stories peculiar to listen too as they didn’t seem to make sense and there were many repetitions of certain words- ‘There, over there’ comes to mind.

They then watched this YouTube video, after which I handed out some general information about Oral Tradition from this site for them to read.  Armed with this new information I sent them away to change their own story into a more oral version to tell to their younger sisters.

To go along with their Native American study, I had bought a few Ojibwe picture books.  Each week I wanted to focus on one or two of them, bringing out the truths about the Ojibwe from their pages.  I chose the following book about the Legend of Minnesota to use as an example of an Ojibwe legend that would have been told through the ages:

DSC_0250oraltradition
I read this out each day over the course of the week.  I then asked the children to participate in a story circle.  The Ojibwe tribe would gather round in a circle and they would have one piece of wood or a decorated stick.  Whoever was holding the stick was the storyteller.  When they finished they passed the stick onto the next person, who then had his turn telling a story.  No one was allowed to talk except the person holding the stick.  The children had some time to work out who would go first, second and third, and which part of the book they would retell.  They were instructed to utilise all their knowledge on the oral tradition to narrate The Legend of Minnesota.  This was a hugely successful activity which C11 in particular excelled at.  I was really impressed:

L started out, retelling the first part of the book
L started out, retelling the first part of the book
The stick was then passed to T, who continued on with the tale
The stick was then passed to T, who continued on with the tale
The more observant of you will notice it was one of the carved dolls we used!
The more observant of you will notice it was one of the carved dolls we used!
A6 begged to be involved, and whilst it was a bit beyond her, she did a grand job copying T's final sentence through much giggling!
A6 begged to be involved, and whilst it was a bit beyond her, she did a grand job copying T’s final sentence through much giggling!
So cute and so much fun!
So cute and so much fun!
Finally it was handed to C, who being the most exuberant of my children, absolutely nailed the oral tradition of repetitions and tones of voice.
Finally it was handed to C, who being the most exuberant of my children, absolutely nailed the oral tradition of repetitions and tones of voice.

This was a great study of the oral traditions of the Ojibwe tribe, particularly because A6 joined in whenever she could.

All Things Beautiful

16 comments

    1. Lol! Yes, us too! It worked really well during the retelling but somehow I can’t imagine my more talkative twin controlling herself to that extent on a regular basis, stick or no stick!

  1. Looks like everyone is having fun. It is great to see A6 joining in with the big kids.:) She looks like she loves it! Sharing family stories is just the best. I often wish I had written down many of the stories I have heard so I don’t forget them. Faith seems to be the one to remember all the family stories. Maybe one day she can write a family journal for us all to enjoy.

    I hope you are enjoying Autumn. We are – lunch every day outside along with a little story time. Love it!

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