Read and listen to Rabbits Wish for Snow story
Biography: Words Are Sacred
Many times people ask me, how did I get started as a storyteller. Native American people, we grow up basically as that. We grow up hearing stories all the time. But we dont call them stories, legends or myths. To us, they are lessons, because they explain the universe.
Tchin (pronounced chin) learned many of his lessons from Princess Red Wing, a famous Narragansett woman who traveled the world telling traditional tales. He is also an avid researcher and many times is given the gift of lessons from other storytellers. To enrich his own cultural knowledge, he also studies folklore from around the world. Im studying quite a bit about the Mideast at this time. Ive studied ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and what you get out of all that is that you get to understand people more clearly…How the universe makes sense to them…it allows you to understand your universe that much better.
Tchin was born in Norfolk, Virginia and was raised by his extended family. As a child, he attended segregated schools in rural Virginia, and was grouped with people of color. He also spent time with relatives in Rhode Island, learning more about his Narragansett culture. Ironically, the Narragansett tribe did not have a reservation at that time, and were not recognized as a tribe by the U.S. government.
When he was 15, Tchin moved to New York City by himself. Too young to get a job, he worked for food and created Native jewelry, flutes, moccasins, and clothing. After ten years in New York, he was accepted to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). He studied at RISD, Brown University and the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. After receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from RISD, Tchin lived and worked in New York City, raising four daughters with his wife, Woo.
Today, Tchin is an internationally known, multi-award winning metalsmith, author, flutemaker, educator, folklorist and musician. He has performed at institutions from local schools to prestigious museums such as the Museum of Natural History, Peabody Museum, and The Museum of Man.
(Visit Tchins Web site at http://www.tchin.net)
Tribe: The Narragansett
Living in Balance
The Narragansett people believe that they have inhabited the area now known as Rhode Island for over 30,000 years, coming originally from the seas, and made by the Creator, Cautonuit, along with all other living things. Every day begins with giving thanks to the Creator, whether there is rain or shine. Most people have a particular tree they go to for prayer, and they will leave a prayer bundle, or ties of sacred red cloth as an offering.
The Narragansett have always believed strongly in living in balance with the Earth, respecting all living things, including plants, stones, and all the Earths creatures. The Creator gave the people everything they needed, and with their resources and skills, they were architects, doctors, astronomers, scientists, and engineers, although they were not given recognition as such when the Europeans came.
Some Narragansett joke that they were the original yuppies, living on the Atlantic coast in the summer and inland in the winter. Traditionally, they have thrived on seafood, potatoes, onions, squash, beans and corn. It is believed that Crow brought corn from the Southwest, and told the people to mix it with beans, creating succotash, a Narragansett staple. Traditionally, women have a strong place in society, owning the developed land and dwellings, and often becoming sachems (hereditary leaders) and warriors. Women always walked behind the men, not in subordination, but to tell them where to go.
Over 35,000 strong in the early 1600s (along with their allies, the Niantics), their hospitality and knowledge were crucial to the survival of the first colonists. But over the next several hundred years, the tribe was nearly decimated by massacres and diseases brought over by the settlers, such as small pox and the common cold. The Narragansett believed in peace, but were forced to continuously fight the settlers to protect themselves and their villages, gardens and homes.
In 1880, the state of Rhode Island illegally detribalized the Narragansett, terminating the tribe on paper. The Narragansett lost their remaining 3200 acres of land, leaving them with only a church on a scarce two acres. For the past 300 years, the surviving ancestors have struggled to maintain tribal identity and regain the stolen land. Fortunately, because the church remained on those two acres for hundreds of years, the tribe could prove its continuous existence. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 re-established the Narragansett as a distinct people, yet they were still unable to win back their land. A lengthy lawsuit in 1978 ultimately resulted in the return of about 2000 acres. The tribe finally achieved federal recognition in 1983.
The tribal rolls currently list over 2,400 members, though there are more Narragansett people not officially on the rolls. Each summer, many people congregate on the reservation for the August Meeting, a religious and historical occasion, which includes dancing, drumming, singing, feasting and games.
Hi, my name is Tchin. Its spelled T-C-H-I-N. I am a Native American person. I am Siksika and Narragansett. The Siksika people are known as the Blackfeet people and they come from the Northern Plains, way up in the north of North America. And the Narragansett people are Northeast woodlands and they come from this region that we are in right now. We are in what was called the Northeast woodlands. The Narragansett people live in Southern New England.
Rabbits Wish for Snow
Let me tell you about Rabbits. Long in the way time past time, rabbits looked very different than they did today. Long in the way time past time, rabbits had very short ears. They had even very long tails. They had long, straight arms and long straight legs. Very different than the way rabbits look today.
One day, Rabbit was out. It was Spring-time. Looking for something to do, and something to eat, as rabbits are always looking for something to eat, he came upon a willow tree that had fresh little shoots in it. It made him so hungry. He wanted to go and taste some of those shoots but it was high up in the willow tree and you know yourselves that rabbits are not good tree climbers!
So Rabbit decided to eat some of the grass and play around. But he thought to himself, I would like to play in the snow. He remembered that his grandmother told him that if you can wish for something hard enough it can happen. So Rabbit started to wish for it to snow, so he started to dance. He started to pray for it to snow and so he started to dance. And he started singing his song, Oh how I wish it would snow; Oh how I wish it would snow. And as Rabbit danced and prayed and sung his song, it started to snow a little bit. Oh, this made Rabbit so happy that he sung his song stronger and harder: Oh how I wish it would snow; Oh how I wish it would snow. And the snow started to come down. And Rabbit was so excited to see that snow coming down that he sung his song stronger. Oh how I wish it would snow; Oh how I wish it would snow. And it started to snow so much. All that snow!
And because he wished for it to snow so much, the snow rose higher and higher, higher until it rose high into that willow tree. And now Rabbit played in the snow, and now it is so high he could eat some of those fresh shoots that are in the willow tree. Filled his stomach.
And now he wanted to go home, tired from all that dancing and eating. But when he looked, he saw that his home was covered with all that snow. Well, he decided he would rest in the crotch of the tree. And he fell asleep.
He awoke the next morning and the sun had come out and melted all that snow away. Now, Rabbit is high up in that willow tree, wondering how he is ever going to get down. Because as you know yourselves, rabbits are not good tree climbers!
So as he was holding onto those branches and looking and wondering how could he get down, how could he sing his song again, how could he make it snow? As he was leaning over, SNAP! His tail broke! And when his tail broke he went tumbling down out of that tree. And as he tumbled down out of that tree, his little short ears would get caught in the branches and stretch and stretch and pull and pull and stretch and stretch and pull, until they are as long as they are today!
And when Rabbit, when he fell out of that willow tree, he hit that ground so hard, he hit that ground so hard, his long straight arms shot into his body and became little short arms just like they are today!
And when that Rabbit fell out of that tree, and he hit that ground so hard, his long straight legs, they broke and bent just like they are today. And now you know what Im telling you is true.
And when that Rabbit fell out of that tree, he hit that ground so hard, he smashed his face, and when he smashed his face, he split his lip. Now, you know what Im telling you is a true lesson. Because if ever you were to look at that Rabbit today, or any of his grandchildren, you will see that they all have long ears, little short arms, bent rear legs, a split lip, no tail, and they have to hop everywhere they go.
Now you know what Ive told you is a true lesson as we Native people see it. And you can prove the truth of this lesson to yourself very soon. Any Spring-time, you can go out into the park or into the woods and look up in that willow tree. And when you look up into that willow tree, you will see where Rabbit has left his tail. Because that willow tree has a very special look. And today that willow tree and Rabbit all look different.
And now, you know why rabbits look the way they do. And now you know why willows look the way they do. A ho! Thank you!
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