November 24, 2008

Storytelling, Cordage, and OWLE

Last week was a real treat at the Wilderness Certification Program. Hawkeye came on Wednesday with bobcat skulls, deer antlers, and some great stories. Storytelling, we learned, was an important part of native cultures. Stories were told to pass the time between sunset and going to sleep. Different stories of personal adventures and folklore entertained both young and old, and brought a lot of laughter and excitement into the lives of the indigenous people. Good storytellers use a lot of body language, different tones and voices, and look into the eyes of their audience. I know I heard some great stories, including Ned and Fred (awesome, Dixie!) and the Chimpanzee let loose at Woodstock (thanks Fritz).

On Thursday, Karen Sherwood from Earthwalk Northwest came out and taught us how to twist up cord out of different natural materials. Types of materials included rootlets, bark, bast fibers, and even leaf fibers.

This is some cord made from stinging nettle fibers. The technique I used here is the reverse wrap. Other techniques include the thigh spin, three strand wrap, and double reverse wrap.

This is about twenty feet of nettle cord, reverse wrapped. It took me about three hours to make twenty feet. With the thigh spin method this would take about three minutes. The sacrifice of using the thigh spin, however, is the strength and tightness of the cord. It's a game of give and take.

(Medicine pouch with Dogbane cord)

Friday was a blast. We paid a visit to Hawkeye's school, Quiet Heart. We met students in the Outdoor Wilderness Living Education (OWLE) program. They ranged from age 8 to 11 and blew all of us away. They were chopping wood, starting campfires, and making knives out of stones, sticks, and bark fibers. A few of the older kids even gutted some mackerel with their stone knives! We went on a nature walk and Nate (9 years old) pointed out Black Capped Chickadees and an American Dipper. He also told me all about the Cedar tree and its importance to the native people in this region. At the end of the day, we played a game called Foxtail, which doesn't end. Hawkeye called it a burnout game, and I was thinking to myself, "the kids will get eventually get tired and we will end the game." This was not the case, as each of us "older kids" dropped out, one by one, huffing and puffing with our arms over our heads. These kids absolutely amazed me with their knowledge, respect, and focus on the tasks at hand.

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