"I would like to thank all my grammas for their love and never-ending encouragement. Their stories are what makes my story and without them I would be silent ."
"Those days story told mouth to mouth. That's how they educate people."
Angela Sidney My Stories are My Wealth
It is important to note that the manner in which I will be presenting this story is not what I am accustomed to and was a difficult feat! How does one write about story-telling? I have come to some resolve about the fashion in which I will present this article. I will tell you a story! My story could be called "Lessons of Life" or Indian History." Whatever the title, it will not be discounted but will be a part of the mystery of story-telling and sharing of legends.
What are Indian legends and how do they differ from myths? This was a question which caused me to research several sources. The answer is that they are one in the same. There is a difference, however, in Indian stories and I will go into greater depth about this.
Every civilization has its history, stories of genesis - of how the world began. In the North we, too, have our stories and ideas of how the world was made and how things of the past are related to the present. Stories are the mechanism that connects us with our ancestors and allows us to hear their stories, feel their spirits and be strengthened by their strengths. Indian legends are the backbone of Native heritage, the basis of our culture and a tool for our future, (if we are to maintain a sense of who we are as a people). Legends are our roots; for a spruce tree to grow strong and tall the roots must sink deep into the earth's surface. The tree must be attached to the land that has given it life. This is how our stories are.
"Crow" is the legendary creature that is familiar to all the Indian legends. He is the partner with the Creator to create and fashion the universe and the earth with all of its inhabitants. This mythological creature is a trickster and a wise being and the stories that involve his participation are endless.
And from the great earth spirit comes another mythological creature, the "Wolf ," the opposite moiety of the crow, and the compliment. From time immemorial the people of my country, the Yukon, have married the opposite clan. This was a safety measure that had its practical purposes as well as some spiritual implications. The Elders have told me that wolf and crow made an agreement long time ago to be each other's helpers and since then that is how it has been. A person whose mother is from the Crow clan has to marry someone whose mother is from the wolf clan. This practice is still encouraged today and with the revival in Indian culture in the territory, it has become much more recognized and respected in the Indian community. "If you know who you are and who your people were, you will be a better person in the future. Be proud of your Indian blood. We are a good people."
Who are the holders of the sacred stories? One would immediately assume that only the Elders are the keepers of the stories. But are they? As a relatively young story-teller I have questioned myself many times about this. Yes, indeed, it is true that the Elders know the ancient stories and have a closer relationship and deeper understanding of the legends because of how they have been trained. It is to these people that many younger generations now turn to ask for guidance; and sometimes the guidance is received in a beautiful, moving story. A lesson, a moral, a note of encouragement through humour and wit. And where did our honoured Elders receive their stories? From their ancestors and their Elders.