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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Story Time

Air Date: Week of

For more of Joe Bruchac’s storytelling, tune in next week. (Photo: Enrico Strocchi, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Living on Earth holiday tradition of taking a break from the news to share some storytelling will feature traditional Native American tales and stories about human kindness towards animals. In this sneak peek, storyteller and musician Joe Bruchac of the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe shares tales of our longtime connection with dogs.


CURWOOD: Here at Living on Earth we have a holiday tradition of taking a break from the news to share some story telling. Over the next couple weeks we’ll have stories of the winter solstice, human kindness to animals, and some traditional Native American tales. To kick it off we are going to offer a sneak peak of what we are working on with Joe Brushac. Joe is a storyteller and musician with the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe of Vermont and Upstate New York, and like many of us, a dog lover.

BRUCHAC: Yeah, the dog is a very special being. And you know, we say that we learn from every animal that each one has something to teach us. For example, the ancestor of the dog is the wolf. We say that human beings learn from the wolf such things as the fact that all of us in our community, like all the wolves in their pack should care for all the children. Or that we should be able to sing together and make music just as the wolves do. They are really beautiful creatures. One of the stories I've heard told by many different elders around the continent, is a story of the Milky Way. And it is said that there was an old wolf she was the leader of the pack. But one day, her time came to leave this earth, and she passed on. Now all of the other wolves were filled with sorrow, she was gone. How would they ever see her again? That might not be possible, perhaps there was no way and then one of the wolves looked up into the sky. And what that will saw there, made it happy. For there were footprints of a wolf leading up from the highest mountain, into the stars, deeper and deeper going into the heavens, and that was the wolf trail. The trail that old female wolf had left for the others to follow to reach the Land Beyond this, the next life, they say that exists in the stars. And so it is when we look up into the sky at the Milky Way. We call that the wolf trail. And we say that is the path, the wolves left for us as well to follow when the time comes for us to leave our bodies and go up into the sky. And by the way, there's an interesting connection here with the dog. And I've heard this told me by elders among the Hodenosoni people, I've heard this told me by John King Viejo was 100 year old elder of the Lacandon Mayan people in Central America when I was down there many decades ago. And the story is that if you look at the Milky Way, you'll see there is a place where there is a break in that river of stars. But when you reach that point, when your spirit is traveling to the next life, you have to get across that break in the star trail. And the way you get across it is said, are with the dogs that help you all the dogs you've had in your lifetime are waiting there on the other side for you. And when they see you, they will swim out into that river and grab hold of their tails with their mouths and make a bridge for you to cross to reach the other side. The way Shaun King told that he said, Well, the dogs will swim across that river of stars and protect you from the various creatures like crocodiles and Caymans that are there in the river and might drag you down. You hold on to their tails and they pull you across but if you haven't treated them well they just might not help you make that journey to the other side. So we always need to remember to treat our dogs well for your we will indeed see them again there in the river and stars.

CURWOOD: That’s Abenaki musician and story teller Joe Brushac. Please join us in the coming weeks for more stories, including some from Joe.



Learn More About Joe Bruchac


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