Chapter 14 notes and assignments

 stories
o often creation stories
o set long ago in mythical age
o communicate moral traditions and knowledge
 origins of landscape, human and animal inhabitants
o often told in performance setting
 accompanied by songs and dancing
 narratives
o meet a concrete need
o pass along specific skills and knowledge
o record oral history
 oral tradition not have single meaning
o rich traditions vary from nation to nation
o each First Nation gives own oral tradition a name in its
own language
 each Nation own traditions and procedures
o individuals, families or clans own stories or narratives
o other stories can be told by anyone
o permission must be obtained before passing on a story
 once in print, story becomes static
o “oral literature”
o no longer strictly oral
 historically, Nisga’a family histories, lineages, prime hunting
and fishing locations, love and loss, lullabies, tales of victory
and defeat, passed down orally
o smallpox and measle epidemics killed population by half
o many “songcatchers” died before able to pass on musical
 1927, 2 outsiders recorded the songs of the Nisga’a using an
Edison wax cylinder recording machine
o 2 elderly chiefs recorded
 Txalahaet (Frank Bolton)
 Pahl (Charles Barton)
 sang dozens of songs – some learned by own greatgrandfathers
o 7 decades the recordings were in basement of Canadian
Museum of Civilization
 only small fraction transcribed into music
 now able to make copies stored on computers
 created CD and played 75 years later to Nisga’a
 ancestral songs sacred
 many First Nations want songs returned so
young people can relearn own history and
 many songs set in ancient time long ago
o time of the Transformers
o moral truths, cultural knowledge, standards of human
behavior passed one generation to next
 origins of landscapes
 origins of people and communities
 origins of certain plants or animals
 explain special relationship to land and resources
o before Transformers, world chaotic, disorganized, filled
with monsters
 animals and humans shared some characteristics
o Transformers travelled the land changed things to how
they are today
 changed the monsters to land features, plants or
 traditional west coast Transformer – Raven
 traditional interior Transformer – Coyote
 different than European “creation stories”
o First Nations as continuous flow of time
o emphasize continuity of existence
 Transformer characters can be tricksters
o special, often witty, humourous character
demonstrating opposite characteristics valued in
o shows consequences of acting in unacceptable manner
o reverse way of teaching moral, ethical and
philosophical manner
o often plays a creator role but is liar, cheat, lazy and
o ageless, genderless, free of stereotypes
o can take form of human, animal or inanimate object
o supernatural powers
 not constricted to human limitations
 allow for explaining creation to people
 links humans to animal world
o people appear after mythical period where animals
were like people
o First Nations able to maintain respectful and holistic
relationship because animals came first and humans
learned from them
 animals as relatives or forefathers
 trickster as lost relative educating his relations
 trickster stories often funny
o proactive, powerful way to prevent wrong-doing and
uphold law
o person in error can save face by listening and learning
from trickster stories
 focus more on transmitting skills, news and history than
cultural values
 like creation and trickster stories, also want to entertain
 narratives that record history
o become important in establishing Aboriginal title to
nation’s territories
o Delgamuukw case judge ruled oral history must be
accepted as evidence
 set precedence for future cases
o not been used as evidence to record BC history until
 historians of Cdn West beginning to use
traditional accounts of events to give balanced
history of BC
 oral traditions written down become oral history
 one special type of story recording history and traditions of
a family
o told within the family
o concern family members and their skills and experiences
o may describe participation in community event
o may describe special skill a family member has to pass
 each story helps listeners place themselves and family in
particular context of time and place
 oral tradition one of most lasting and effective ways of
educating First Nations children
o trickster stories teach them how to act and behave
o creation stories teach where they came from
o family narratives teach about family history
 older people teach younger through stories reflecting
o some stories have specific purposes
o some transmit cultural knowledge in general way
 learning in oral setting different than printed text
o have to listen to procedure and remember it
 the art of delivering a formal speech in a public place
o requires training and gives great dignity and respect
o many First Nations use a special form of language for
such speeches
 speaking reflects individual and the people for
whom speaking
 ability to state position in respectful way important
 respect a two-way street
 First Nations using formal oratory are trained
o great honour to speak for family, clan, house or tribe
o spends time listening so doesn’t misrepresent group
 art of listening important
 part of oral tradition
Name: ______________
Chapter 14
In your textbook, read the brief introduction to Chapter 14, and the first section on “Stories
and Narratives”. After reading these sections, answer the following questions.
Why is it difficult to define oral tradition?
2. What is oral literature?
3. What are the transformers and what did they do?
a. Who are two examples of transformers? _______________________________
4. Define trickster:
a. What do they do / what is their purpose?
5. Why have oral narratives not been used as evidence in the writing of British Columbia’s
history and the Canadian legal system until recently?
Names: __________________
In small talking circles: recall a favourite story from your childhood, a story that has
stayed with you. It may be from a children’s book, cartoon, movie, or a story told to you.
It may be a popular story or a family story. The story may be personal and does not have
to have Aboriginal content.
 Share your story with the circle. Provide as much drama and action as needed. You
are a storyteller.
 After each story, ask the group members to try and identify why the teller chose
that story.
 When all tellers are done, have a group discussion on the underlying values and
messages of the stories. What themes emerge?
Values and Messages:
 Be prepared to summarize your group findings and possibly share a story with the
Name: ____________________
Select 10 of the following narratives. Read and classify the narratives (ie. what type of
narrative is the story?).