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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Schoolcraft - Peboan and Seegwun - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

It's been a busy week here at Lake Wobegon -- Woops! that's Garrison Keillor's great introduction to the news from his fictional town.  Still it has been a busy week of storytelling and beyond, so I thought I'd just give a very short Anishinaabe tale about how the weather is here in Michigan at this time.  I will, but typical of Storytelling + Research = LoiS it led to some interesting research after the story.  (Wish I'd known those symbols couldn't become part of the website address when I titled this blog!)

For a family literacy event completing March Reading Month I included this story.

That comes from the 1856 book originally published in 1839 under the authorship of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft as The Myth of Hiawatha, and Other Oral Legends, Mythologic and Allegoric, of the North American Indians and easily found on Project Gutenberg.  Also there is the bit more approachable title of "The Winter Spirit and His Visitor" in his 1916 The Indian Fairy Book , which has revisions and new colored illustrations.  In that revised and republished book I found it interesting the Foreword claims, "Mr. Schoolcraft listened and wrote the stories down, just as he heard them."  By then his first wife, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, had died back in 1842.  Searching for more on the story Henry isn't listed at all, but her portrait came up on the site,
as well as the statement "In this case the storyteller Schoolcraft is translating is her mother Ozhaguscodaywayquay."  Homestead also gives a picture of a winter lodge, which looks rather like a tipi made of small logs and branches, and the flower H.R.S. identifies as the Miskodeed or Claytonia Virginica, commonly called Spring Beauty.

So did the man whose name is honored here in Michigan in both an Upper Peninsula county and a metro Detroit college provide enough to the stories to be called the author of the books?  Surely his wife's contribution is obvious, but a 2008 book edited by Robert Dale Parker published all her writings, including poetry.

The title, by the way, The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky, is her Anishinaabe name.  I've also seen her Anglicized name as Susan.

A beautiful 1993 picture book of the story by illustrator, Charles Larry, was reviewed by both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly as a riddle/myth.  It's definitely a myth, but the identification of Winter and Spring doesn't have to wait until the end.  (Even H.R. Schoolcraft identifies it in the title as an allegory of the two.)  In a Goodreads review by Kristin the story is faulted for it's lack of action.  Universally the illustrations are praised even by Kristin, but as Publishers Weekly notes, there's certainly "vivid language."

Those of us experiencing this time of seasonal transition can certainly appreciate the way Winter tries to stay, but we trust Spring will eventually take over.

Too often this area's Native contribution is overlooked when considering Native Americans. As a result I was delighted to find the Charles Larry book included in Karri Smith's Mini-Unit on Native Americans aimed at First Graders.

As the Farmer’s Almanac says: it’s easy to understand the draw of the Ojibwe’s more poetic explanation. After all, even today, we still talk about 'Old Man Winter.'

I would add that the information on Jane Johnston Schoolcraft is also appropriate as we come to the end of Women's History Month.
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    

There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!