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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Schoolcraft - Star Family - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Earlier this month I mentioned the Perseid Meteor Showers or "shooting stars" when talking about Orion and Mara L. Pratt's book, The Storyland of Stars.  Unfortunately her coverage of the August "shower" is more factual than story.

Jane Johnston Schoolcraft ~ OjibweAt the back of my mind was a story found in both  Henry Rowe Schoolcraft's Algic Researches (published in two volumes in 1839 and again in his The Myth of Hiawatha, and other Oral Legends (published in 1856)  about a family that began with female stars coming down to earth.  "The Star Family or Celestial Sisters" is an interesting story, but unfortunately it's also an example of 19th century language needing to be brought alive when re-telling it.  I also noticed that, unlike the various stories I usually think about from  Schoolcraft, this is not from the people of our region.  The story is from the Shawnee, and like Michigan's Anishinaabe, they are an Algonquian speaking people, but they suffered through the Indian Removals of the 1830s.  That overlapped some of the time when Schoolcraft was an Indian Agent.  Because his wife, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft helped him learn both Algonquian languages and lore, this story probably included her influence even though it isn't an Anishinaabe tale.

I've chosen the later version, but I think you'll see what I mean about some of the language.  Don't let it keep you from enjoying a lovely pourquois tale and looking up for a stray shooting star.

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 regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other 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!

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