"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"Forsaken Brother" & Ojibwa Influences on the Boy

There are so many beautiful cultures in the world, and, as a storyteller, I do my best to honor them.

The same is for the Ojibwa people.

I shared what I learned with Julie Barnson, my story buddy for "Forsaken Brother", and we were also able to discover even more elements that could prove crucial to the telling of the tale.

Ojibwa Cultural Elements that may Shape Story:

  • The boy will be at least seven-years-old as this is the age when children are expected to help with the chores. Perhaps I will place him at age eight about to turn nine as this could add to why the older sister feels she must abandon him.
  • When boys reach age twelve, they go on a Vision Quest. Though the boy in "Forsaken Brother" will not yet be this age, he could reflect on this future ceremony. During a Vision Quest, there is fasting that is chosen of the boy's own free will. Whereas, in this story, he is forced to starve. A Vision Quest is often connected to sights or sounds for the boy only. Listening to the wolves howl and seeing them off in the distance could seem like a vision at first but then realizes that they are truly before him.
  • The words for food and water in the language would add more culture to the story. For example, the word for "water" is "nibi" or pronounced "ne-be".
  • At one point the boy finds shelter in a tree. Though the type is not shared in the original story, I may make it a maple tree. The Ojibwa would gather syrup as families. The boy could take his fingers and peel the bark away, attempting to make a hole, and then remember that it is wintertime and the syrup comes in spring. The tree that once gave him food could not at his time of greatest need.
  • While huddled in the tree, he could reflect on a story or two about Nanabozho, a half spirit/half human being. Nanabozho is credited with the discovery of wild rice as well as hunting skills. He also drove Winter-Maker away so spring could come and food be present once more. Of all times, these skills are needed for the boy. This could be a little story within a story.
  • The family may be part of the Nooke ("Tender", i.e. Bear) clan, which is known for healing and defense. These attributes are prominent in the story. The bear, lynx, and wolf are part of the Nooke totem/doodem. It is the largest totem.
  • When someone is ill, it is thought to be of the spirit as well as for the physical body. I have added that the sister could see her father's eyes through the eyes of her younger brother. The eyes are often thought as the "window to the soul".
  • Mourning for the dead--There is mourning for about a year and then you can join the community again. This could partly explain why the lodge was so far from the village at the beginning of the story. The sister may have been surprised when the older brother left the lodge so soon as the year of mourning was not complete for the passing of the father or of the mother.
  • Ritual for the dead--The dead are placed in special clothing and have a spirit bundle that holds a lock of the dead person's hair. Then the dead are wrapped in a blanket and birchbark. The body is removed from the west side of the wigwam and food is placed with them. A close family member dances around the open grave. A barkhouse is made and reflects the symbol of the family's clan over the grave.
  • The boy would know about the food buried with his father and mother, though the thought to get the food would never have crossed his mind.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Former Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance (2005-2008)
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com
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