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January 16 2015 Literature Circle 7th Grade

Haa Shuká: Our Ancestors

Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature

Edited by Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer

Now for something completely different. Read (at least) the Introduction to page 29, and the stories

Strong Man

Glacier Bay History, both of them

Woman Who Married a Bear – one or both versions

and, if you want, Naatsileini.

Don’t expect to understand every bit, because these are coming from long ago, and there will be things that we don’t have the context for. But they are great literature, with a lot of layers of meaning in apparently simple stories. They are so short, you can easily read them multiple times, and you will probably see things you didn’t the first time.

So read them, and compare the two versions of Glacier Bay, and we’ll talk about your reactions, and what some of the themes contained in them, what you feel like they are about.

Write a paragraph about the stories, your response, or anything that comes up in your reading of them.

The special thing with these stories, is that besides being great literature, they are also the precious property, and living heritage, of clans living today. You’ve seen sealions, bear scat, maybe you’ve even been hunting, so southeast Alaska kids have an advantage.

The notes in the back are useful, too, and interesting.

Some background

Tlingit society is based on matrilineal clans. You are the same clan as your mother. Clans were more important than location, for your identity.

Each person marries someone of the opposite moiety – or half. The clans are all either Raven, or Eagle/Wolf.

So if your mother is a clan of the Eagle moiety, you are the same clan, and you need to marry someone belonging to one of the Raven clans. Over millennia the clans have rich and complicated history. These stories are part of that history, but refer to other parts.

Strong Man

This story involves the practice of training boys to be tough, and strong, by going into the ocean, even in the winter. They were trained by their mother’s brother. This would be for boys and young men who were expected to be leaders. So in this story, he’s disrespected, and doesn’t train with the others, but goes on his own at night.

Glacier Bay History

Tlingit people lived in Glacier Bay until the glaciers filled it in several hundred years ago, which is what this story is about, when the clans left. When George Vancouver sailed by, in 1794, there was no bay, it was just ice. By the time of John Muir, a hundred years later, it was a bay again you could sail into.

 

 

 

 

 

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