Tell me if you have a topic you'd like to see. (Contact: .)
Please also let others know about this site.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Powers - Why the Sun Travels from East to West - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Complaints about standardized tests earn my sympathy.  Testing "general knowledge" is the problem.  Today's story has a personal back-story.  I always tested at the top limit on reading tests.  (Math is a whole 'nother story as I sometimes say I'm "numerically impaired.")  One test, however, had my "perfect reader crown" knocked off.  I got one question wrong and it's a perfect example of how you shouldn't be tested on something beyond the reading sample.

What did I get wrong?  The question presumed I should know the sun rose in the east and set in the west.  How the heck could a city-dwelling elementary school student know that?  I doubt I could ever see it rise and set over the houses and trees of my St. Louis home.  I wasn't driving yet and had no idea where east, west, north and south were.  By high school I was riding public buses to north St. Louis and was dimly aware another area was south St. Louis, but maps were not yet a part of my life.

Nowadays when I teach introductory sign language, I teach the signs for those directions.  I also help show where they are on a map since it's part of the way the sign is made.

Telling this story, I would certainly include the importance of directions and how the Iroquois children would know more than this city kid did.  The story comes from Around an Iroquois Story Fire recorded by Mabel Powers, who was given the Iroquois name of Yehsennohwehs which means She Who Carries and Tells the Stories.  Her versions of the stories received the endorsement by the six chiefs of the Iroquois Confederation (Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas, and Tuscaroras).  She came to western New York in about 1910 and was adopted as an honorary member by the Seneca.  She lived and was active there, including the Chautauqua movement of adult education as a frequent speaker until her death in 1966.  A biographical speech about her is online from the Chautauqua County Historical Society and McClurg Museum in Westfield, New York.

Around an Iroquois Story Fire has only just entered public domain as it was renewed in 1950.  This is a perfect example of the cultural importance of Public Domain saving work from the twentieth century that should not be allowed to fade away.
The book also includes a version of the Pleiades or Dancing Stars story from two weeks ago.  There seem to be as many re-tellings as there are constellations and it's always interesting to see how each is a bit different.  Teachers seeking Compare and Contrast ideas could easily use the story for a lesson.

Before starting today's story I probably should address one other issue.  While it's convenient to use the name of a specific nation like the Iroquois Confederation or its members like the Seneca, this story definitely uses the name of "Indian."  My first teacher in Native American folklore was an Anishinaabe elder who called the name of "Indian" "Columbus's mistake!"  I also have younger friends who prefer "Indian."  It is simpler and certainly easier when telling.  Their opinion is the term is part of their heritage and also all official recognition, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (however flawed that agency's history may be).  I was surprised to learn the B.I.A. dates back to 1775 and the Continental Congress!

I have no final answer.  Nowadays so much seems to revolve around "politically correct language." As a non-tribal member I merely hope to respectfully inform my audiences, using the most reliable information available.  Today's story is yet another example that also happens to match the Summer Reading theme of "A Universe of Stories" being used by many libraries across our country.
As a storyteller I can relate to that idea of work never being done.  May stories always have us as earth children looking up and finding reasons to keep reading "pourquois" tales like this.  It gets us thinking about how our ancestors explained how natural phenomenon originated, including in the sky above.

Until next week when I hope to continue offering ideas related to the "Universe of Stories", here are additional reading suggestions.
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.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

No comments: