Before contact with European settlers, Oral Tradition was the main vehicle of conveying essential knowledge pertaining to identity, origins of the people and the land, code of ethics and the gifts of Mother Earth. Elders were the key components of the oral tradition because of the information they were able to share and the wisdom that they carried. Community members were assigned different roles within the oral tradition. For example, there were Nutacomihtit (the ones who bring news), Nuci atkuhkahtit (the ones who tell stories), Nucintuhtitit (the ones who sang stories) and those who were responsible for maintaining and interpreting the messages from the Wampum Belts.

As a result of contact, Oral Tradition diminished but has not totally disappeared. Today our Wolastoq Elders continue to carry our history, worldviews, language and wisdom. Through language they also convey information about our values, beliefs, and ideals. In essence, they carry our Wolastoq treasure for present and future generations yet to be born.

There are lots of stories about Kiwolatomuhsisok (the little people) as well as stories of the supernatural such as Motewolon (shaman) and (Ke Read More
Before contact with European settlers, Oral Tradition was the main vehicle of conveying essential knowledge pertaining to identity, origins of the people and the land, code of ethics and the gifts of Mother Earth. Elders were the key components of the oral tradition because of the information they were able to share and the wisdom that they carried. Community members were assigned different roles within the oral tradition. For example, there were Nutacomihtit (the ones who bring news), Nuci atkuhkahtit (the ones who tell stories), Nucintuhtitit (the ones who sang stories) and those who were responsible for maintaining and interpreting the messages from the Wampum Belts.

As a result of contact, Oral Tradition diminished but has not totally disappeared. Today our Wolastoq Elders continue to carry our history, worldviews, language and wisdom. Through language they also convey information about our values, beliefs, and ideals. In essence, they carry our Wolastoq treasure for present and future generations yet to be born.

There are lots of stories about Kiwolatomuhsisok (the little people) as well as stories of the supernatural such as Motewolon (shaman) and (Kehtaqs) (Ball of Fire). These stories teach us how to live in harmony with each other as well as with the winged ones, the animals, insects and the ones who live in the water. There are stories of tricksters to teach us about the value of humor. Other stories may include historical information, origins of our ancestors, code of ethics and the gifts from Mother Earth. In Oral Tradition words are sacred and language is considered a gift from Creator. All languages are to be honored and not displaced. We need the stories from our Elders; how else can we honor our Earthwalk from the past to the present and into the future?

Opolahsomuwehs 07

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

talking stick

talking stick, c. 1977, First Nations; Wolastoqiyik, Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation)

Abner Paul
New Brunswick Craft Collection, 1995

Tobique, New Brunswick, CANADA
Neqotkuk, New Brunswick, CANADA
1995.27.177.1
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


The Wolastoqew storytelling tradition is as ancient as the time winter has been. For it was only then, when so much time was spent in wigwams, that the stories spilled from the lips of the No-dji-tak-win—the singer. Once asked of a Wolastoqew man, “Can you speak your mother tongue?” He replied, “No, but I can sing it.” It has been claimed repeatedly that the euphonious quality of the language makes it one of the most beautiful to hear. Nowhere is this more evident than when elders bare their true feelings and beliefs through narratives of social origin, geography, real life and how things are done in both practical and unexplainable modes.

Set in real surroundings, both natural and mysterious qualities of animals, humans and super humans are presented in complex plots of personal power and survival that focus on the dynamics of getting along. Often the life lesson with its profound human wisdom is taught through intricate story cycles featuring the Wabanaki cultural champion, Koluskap. In these stories, the actions move about from conscious to sub-conscious, from logical explanations to dreamlike happenings. Characters abound everywhere wi Read More
The Wolastoqew storytelling tradition is as ancient as the time winter has been. For it was only then, when so much time was spent in wigwams, that the stories spilled from the lips of the No-dji-tak-win—the singer. Once asked of a Wolastoqew man, “Can you speak your mother tongue?” He replied, “No, but I can sing it.” It has been claimed repeatedly that the euphonious quality of the language makes it one of the most beautiful to hear. Nowhere is this more evident than when elders bare their true feelings and beliefs through narratives of social origin, geography, real life and how things are done in both practical and unexplainable modes.

Set in real surroundings, both natural and mysterious qualities of animals, humans and super humans are presented in complex plots of personal power and survival that focus on the dynamics of getting along. Often the life lesson with its profound human wisdom is taught through intricate story cycles featuring the Wabanaki cultural champion, Koluskap. In these stories, the actions move about from conscious to sub-conscious, from logical explanations to dreamlike happenings. Characters abound everywhere with their shapes shifting between human and animal forms and back again, illustrating the close bonds among all living beings. From the lowly clam spy to the tiny Mikumwes who flies and never lies; from lazy Uncle Turtle to the busybody Grandmother Groundhog and many more, all express, through the stories, everything about living.

Traditionally the story forms are twofold. Sometimes a rhythmic poetry with intoned melody and animated actions of unbelievable energy and enthusiastic emotion is the style. At other times the stories are anecdotal and more formal, especially when speaking of Koluskap and his brother, Mikumwes as if they were of a time long since past.

The stories that have survived through recordings and writings represent versions of narratives told for eons that, without a doubt, come to us much abridged than when originally rendered in the homes with only the families to hear. Their duration in those true unadulterated tellings could be many hours, for the No-dji-tak-win was in no hurry, winter being what it was. The storyteller would use formal mnemonic and emphasis devices, as well as describing in-depth scenes with enlivened detail to further enrapture the listener. While the stories have evolved over time, the resilience of the oral storytelling tradition goes on in today’s Wolastoqew communities where people still rise to tell and perform a story about something current in their lives.

Here, now, we can imagine what Wolastoqew storytelling was like long ago beside the Wolastoq as family groups gathered and lived together in cozy fir-sweet homes while a fierce winter wind blew outside. As the No-dji-tak-win spoke, spiritual teachings permeated the adventures, preserving the integrity of Wolastoqiyik until today and inspiring people onward into tomorrow.

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Malecite Indian Wooden Hut Interior - Saint John River

painting: Malecite Indian Wooden Hut Interior - Saint John River, c. 1840

Robert Petley, 1812-1869
John Clarence Webster Canadiana Collection

New Brunswick, CANADA
W5943
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Ronald Paul discusses stories and songs

Indian songs, about rabbits, about the sky, about the birds . . . even death, when you’re married, when you’re happy, when you’re traveling around, when you’re canoeing.

Courtesy of Ronald Paul

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Maurice Sacobie discusses storytelling

My father had a friend there, used to come down to the house there, of course he’d sit there and talk all night long. My father would be going asleep. He’d be, he’d be still be talking away, “Ben, you remember that time that we went out on the hunting,” you know this and that, talking Indian, eh. Fella could talk Indian, talk Indian and well he’d talk Indian and English both. He’d be sitting there talking and his legs would be going like this getting so worked up, talking, eh. I don’t know if you remember him? I don’t know if you know him at all, John Sacobie, he was quite a storyteller.

Courtesy of Maurice Sacobie

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Maurice Sacobie discusses John Sacobie, storyteller

John Sacobie, he was an elder down in Oromocto, he was quite a storyteller. Boys he could tell stories, I wish I could tell stories like that. Way back in his time, eh, and the way he told them it was just like you were there, you know, the way he was going about them: what happened, what for or in the working camps, logging camps where he worked a lot of times, farms, ah, oh, he could tell them. Ghost stories, that’s what I used to like to hear, boy. But when he got done [laughs] we had no lights eh, just lamps. Our room, our house wasn’t any bigger than this, kept the lamp on all night. Mom, her room was maybe smaller than this, could just see the light, eh. He’d go on, telling them all night long, couldn’t hardly see. But the way he told it, just like it was so real. Talk about forerunners and different things, witches, he’d talk about that.

Courtesy of Maurice Sacobie

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Koluskap and His Brother, Malsum, told by Roseanne Clark in Wolastoqiyik

Koluskap and his younger twin brother, Malsum, were talking before they were born. “We must be born right away,” Malsum(1) said. “No, we must wait,” Koluskap replied. But he couldn’t stop Malsum, eager to get into the world, from bursting out through his mother’s side, killing her.

The two brothers brought themselves up and were always together until one day they tried their strength against each other to see if, even though they were twins, one might be more powerful. Malsum said to Koluskap, “How would a person kill you anyway? How could a person kill you?” Koluskap thought a long time and decided to pretend to give his brother the answer to his question. “Down feathers,” he said, knowing that feathers would only stun him, not kill him. “And how would you kill me?” Koluskap asked Malsum. The brother answered truthfully, “Cattails.”

They continued to test their strength, Koluskap always winning. Malsum didn’t like this and envied his brother. One night, Malsum got some down feathers and knocked Koluskap to the ground. When he woke up, Koluskap looked for some cattails thinking, “I must kill Malsum because he is dangerous.” When he got the chance, he struck him dead with the cattail.

1. wolf

Wolastoqiyik Executive Committee, New Brunswick Museum
told by Roseanne Clark

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Koluskap Frees the Water, told by Gwen Bear in Wolastoqiyik

Koluskap and Mikumwesu traveled along the Wolastoq and came to a camp. The two brothers went ashore and were met by an old woman whom they called Groundhog. After she invited the visitors to sit, Koluskap asked for some water because he was very thirsty. Approaching the camp Koluskap and Mikumwesu noticed that the water was very dirty and full of bugs, making it unfit to drink. Groundhog answered, “I have no water. Akwulabemu (1) has it all.” Koluskap instructed her to go and tell him the Chief wants a drink.

“We can get no water unless we give Akwulabemu a young girl,” explained Groundhog. “He already has two girls and I have only one left. Besides, he tortures them. They must obey his commands and he pokes their faces with a hot poker before speaking to them. I would not recognize my own daughter, who is there, scarred and all of her hair burnt off.”

But Koluskap still insisted, so Groundhog sent her last daughter to Akwulabemu and stated that the Chief insisted absolutely on having water. Akwulabemu replied, “The great man at your camp thinks he is going to have good water to drink.” Passing Groundhog’s daughter a dish, he said, “Take this to him. I’ve been washing my hands and feet in it.”

This greatly angered Koluskap, who refused to drink the filthy water. Armed with a club, he went to break Akwulabemu’s head and free the water. His first act was to destroy Akwulabemu’s stone canoe. Passing many scarred girls too frightened to speak, he approached Akwulabemu saying, “Are you trying to destroy all the people? You should have known I was coming. I am Koluskap, chief of everyone.”

Akwulabemu answered, “You may be chief of the animals and men, but you will have to fight first.” An insulted Koluskap took his club, struck Akwulabemu and broke his skull. An animal sprang out of his head and rushed toward the canoe but when it saw the canoe in pieces, it became a serpent. Koluskap clubbed it dead and immediately the springs and brooks filled with clean and pure water. Koluskap then called out all of the bugs and worms and they made a great feast of the snake.

Koluskap returned to Groundhog’s camp and told the old woman to go out and proclaim, “The great chief has freed the water. Akwulabemu is dead and the Wolastoq will soon fill with clear, fresh water.” Groundhog did just as Koluskap ordered.

1. the giant frog

Wolastoqiyik Executive Committee, New Brunswick Museum
told by Gwen Bear

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Koluskap Frees the Water, told by Roseanne Clark in Wolastoqiyik

Koluskap and Mikumwesu traveled along the Wolastoq and came to a camp. The two brothers went ashore and were met by an old woman whom they called Groundhog. After she invited the visitors to sit, Koluskap asked for some water because he was very thirsty. Approaching the camp Koluskap and Mikumwesu noticed that the water was very dirty and full of bugs, making it unfit to drink. Groundhog answered, “I have no water. Akwulabemu (1) has it all.” Koluskap instructed her to go and tell him the Chief wants a drink.

“We can get no water unless we give Akwulabemu a young girl,” explained Groundhog. “He already has two girls and I have only one left. Besides, he tortures them. They must obey his commands and he pokes their faces with a hot poker before speaking to them. I would not recognize my own daughter, who is there, scarred and all of her hair burnt off.”

But Koluskap still insisted, so Groundhog sent her last daughter to Akwulabemu and stated that the Chief insisted absolutely on having water. Akwulabemu replied, “The great man at your camp thinks he is going to have good water to drink.” Passing Groundhog’s daughter a dish, he said, “Take this to him. I’ve been washing my hands and feet in it.”

This greatly angered Koluskap, who refused to drink the filthy water. Armed with a club, he went to break Akwulabemu’s head and free the water. His first act was to destroy Akwulabemu’s stone canoe. Passing many scarred girls too frightened to speak, he approached Akwulabemu saying, “Are you trying to destroy all the people? You should have known I was coming. I am Koluskap, chief of everyone.”

Akwulabemu answered, “You may be chief of the animals and men, but you will have to fight first.” An insulted Koluskap took his club, struck Akwulabemu and broke his skull. An animal sprang out of his head and rushed toward the canoe but when it saw the canoe in pieces, it became a serpent. Koluskap clubbed it dead and immediately the springs and brooks filled with clean and pure water. Koluskap then called out all of the bugs and worms and they made a great feast of the snake.

Koluskap returned to Groundhog’s camp and told the old woman to go out and proclaim, “The great chief has freed the water. Akwulabemu is dead and the Wolastoq will soon fill with clear, fresh water.” Groundhog did just as Koluskap ordered.

1. the giant frog

Wolastoqiyik Executive Committee, New Brunswick Museum
told by Roseanne Clark

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Koluskap and the Giant Skunk, told by Gwen Bear in Wolastoqiyik

After the struggle with Izignapogos that freed the food for everyone, Groundhog warned Koluskap that he was not finished because half-stone man had some friends down below. Koluskap and Mikumwesu, the two brothers, started down the river in their canoe with Koluskap paddling. After a while Mikumwesu said, “Let’s go ashore because that partner of Izignapogos is down here somewhere. You know the one I mean? The Big Skunk who can shoot his spray across the ocean?” Koluskap replied, “Yes, I know him. I’m here to kill dangerous and large animals so let’s go.”

Mikumwesu went ashore and cut a long stick and took it to Koluskap in the canoe. “Sharpen this stick,” instructed Mikumwesu. “We’ll use it to plug him up so he can’t shoot.” Koluskap was reluctant to try that plan as he thought the giant skunk too dangerous. He suggested lighting his pipe so there would be a lot of smoke and that way, the giant skunk wouldn’t be able to direct his spray. Then, while the smoke confused the skunk, Koluskap would jump in and plug him up.

They came around a bend to a narrow place in the river with cliffs on each side. Koluskap saw that the two brothers could not pass any further without risking the danger of the giant skunk because they couldn’t see ahead clearly. Mikumwesu said, “I’ll start smoking and the smoke will rise up like fog.” The little brother took out his pixnoggin, a pouch made out of a whole fisher’s skin, and put his special smoking mixture in his pipe. When the smoke was thick like a fog, they continued their journey through the narrows. Suddenly the Giant Skunk was before them ready to fire. But because of the smoke, Koluskap had time to shove the sharp stick in him and down went the skunk.

Mikumwesu asked, “Why didn’t you pierce him so as to kill him?” Koluskap replied that he hadn’t wanted to kill the giant skunk. He wanted to keep him until he made him small enough that people might use him and not risk getting hurt with spray. “From now on,” claimed Koluskap, “the skunk will have just enough power in his spray to protect himself.”

Wolastoqiyik Executive Committee, New Brunswick Museum
told by Gwen Bear

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Little Thunder grew until one day Koluskap decided to leave the village and take his nephew with him. Mikumwesu went along as well, leaving the old woman, Groundhog, alone. They all set out in Koluskap’s large stone canoe, arriving at a village. The people came out to see the small Mikumwesu in the large canoe. The elders knew for certain that the strangers were Koluskap and Mikumwesu, for no others could do such wondrous feats.

The Chief of the village was away, but Turtle, who is like an uncle to Koluskap, was there because he was too lazy to go hunting. Turtle stayed around camp doing the cooking and smoking of the meat. One day, the large bird, Klu arrived to visit Turtle. Klu said to Turtle, “Kwē” and Turtle answered, “Kwē”. Turtle fetched some smoked moose meat, pounded it fine and served it without anything to drink. Without anything to wash down the dry meat, Klu choked and died, so Turtle cut him up and smoked him, hanging up Klu’s wings in the wigwam.

When Fisher, the great hunter, came home and saw the great amount of meat, he thought Turtle had been very industrious. But when he saw Klu’s wings, he chang Read More
Little Thunder grew until one day Koluskap decided to leave the village and take his nephew with him. Mikumwesu went along as well, leaving the old woman, Groundhog, alone. They all set out in Koluskap’s large stone canoe, arriving at a village. The people came out to see the small Mikumwesu in the large canoe. The elders knew for certain that the strangers were Koluskap and Mikumwesu, for no others could do such wondrous feats.

The Chief of the village was away, but Turtle, who is like an uncle to Koluskap, was there because he was too lazy to go hunting. Turtle stayed around camp doing the cooking and smoking of the meat. One day, the large bird, Klu arrived to visit Turtle. Klu said to Turtle, “Kwē” and Turtle answered, “Kwē”. Turtle fetched some smoked moose meat, pounded it fine and served it without anything to drink. Without anything to wash down the dry meat, Klu choked and died, so Turtle cut him up and smoked him, hanging up Klu’s wings in the wigwam.

When Fisher, the great hunter, came home and saw the great amount of meat, he thought Turtle had been very industrious. But when he saw Klu’s wings, he changed his mind and cried out, “Now you are in trouble. You’ve smoked the Chief from a nearby village. Come quickly, I’ll hide you in a tree before his people come.” Turtle accepted Fisher’s nest in a tree limb. Fisher pulled off the tree’s bark so Turtle couldn’t get down. Fisher went away as fast as he could.

Soon Klu’s people came, saw his wings and knew Turtle had killed him. Turtle, who was getting rather bored sitting in the tree, was thinking up jokes to play on the people below. While positioning himself for a particularly nasty joke, Turtle lost his balance and fell out of the tree. The people saw the turtle fall, but couldn’t find him on the ground. After a while they found something that looked like a wooden plate. Getting closer, they recognized that it was Turtle hiding in his shell.

Klu’s people shouted at Turtle, “We will destroy you for killing our Chief!” But the people couldn’t decide how to hurt Turtle. “Hang him,” said one. Turtle perked up and seemed rather pleased. “Oh, good,” he said, “I’ll get you some rope.”

“He’s not scared of hanging,” pondered the people. “Let’s burn him,” suggested someone, and the people began to gather firewood. “Yay!” said Turtle, “I’ll get the birch bark.” They realized that burning would not do either. “How about drowning him?” a third person asked. When he heard this, Turtle got very sad and when the people grabbed him he shouted, “Oh no. Help!”

Knowing that at last they had found the perfect punishment for Turtle, one that he would not enjoy, the people threw him into the Wolastoq. Turtle sank right to the bottom and Klu’s people thought they had killed him. But Turtle simply swam away and he smiled and laughed, thinking he had gotten the better of the people and played a clever joke.

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Turtle swam under the water until he felt safe from the people who had tried to harm him for killing their chief. He finally surfaced smiling and making rude comments to some nearby girls who were washing their clothes on some logs. The girls screamed and ran home to tell the people in the village. “You said you drowned Turtle,” they said. “He wasn’t very dead when he spoke to us.”

When the people heard this, they cried, “We’ll kill him wherever he is. He tricked us by acting afraid.” So they went down to the Wolastoq to hunt for Turtle, but he was not there. They paddled along the shore in their canoes and eventually some girls found him lying on his back, sunning on a rock. The men seized Turtle and yelled at him, “You are not going to kill any more of our chiefs!” Turtle replied, “Why didn’t he come as a man, so that I could tell he was a Chief? He came as a bird, so how was I to know?” But the people refused to hear his excuses and took him to the hall where they held their councils.

While they were holding council, Koluskap and Mikumwesu arrived. Seeing what was going on, Kolu Read More

Turtle swam under the water until he felt safe from the people who had tried to harm him for killing their chief. He finally surfaced smiling and making rude comments to some nearby girls who were washing their clothes on some logs. The girls screamed and ran home to tell the people in the village. “You said you drowned Turtle,” they said. “He wasn’t very dead when he spoke to us.”

When the people heard this, they cried, “We’ll kill him wherever he is. He tricked us by acting afraid.” So they went down to the Wolastoq to hunt for Turtle, but he was not there. They paddled along the shore in their canoes and eventually some girls found him lying on his back, sunning on a rock. The men seized Turtle and yelled at him, “You are not going to kill any more of our chiefs!” Turtle replied, “Why didn’t he come as a man, so that I could tell he was a Chief? He came as a bird, so how was I to know?” But the people refused to hear his excuses and took him to the hall where they held their councils.

While they were holding council, Koluskap and Mikumwesu arrived. Seeing what was going on, Koluskap said to Mikumwesu, “Uncle’s in a bad state and it’s my doing. My power made him kill the Chief because I wanted to have some fun with him. We’ll wait until they’re torturing him before we let him know we are here. Perhaps the people will tell us when it is time.” After the people held council over Turtle, they started to torture him by burning him with firebrands. They then wished to drag him through the fire. Turtle begged them to stop, but they would not. Finally one of them said, “Why don’t we ask Mikumwesu to come see the fun?” So they went down and informed Mikumwesu. On the way up to the fire, Koluskap said to Mikumwesu, “See, I told you they would let us know.”

When they came to the spot where the people were torturing Turtle, Koluskap pretended not to know his uncle, who was all covered with ashes. “Oh,” shrugged Koluskap, “it’s just a wooden plate.” Just as the people were going to throw Turtle into the fire again, he screamed, “Please, don’t!” When Koluskap heard him speak, he laughed and said, “Why, is that you, Uncle?” He walked up to Turtle and turned him into a man. Lo and behold there was a fine looking man standing where a turtle had been a moment before. “What is the trouble here?” asked Koluskap. Turtle recounted the whole story of accidentally killing the bird Klu, who turned out to be the Chief of the people, playing the trick on the people and swimming away.

Koluskap said to Turtle, “They can’t kill you for killing a bird. Some chiefs have birds which they send around.” By now all of the people were whispering among themselves, sensing that the great man must be Koluskap. When they determined this for sure, they went up to Koluskap and asked his forgiveness, saying they did not know Turtle was his uncle. Then Koluskap and Turtle left the village.


© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Koluskap and Turtle traveled to a town and stayed there a while, working. Finally Koluskap said to Turtle, “Uncle, you better get married.” To this Turtle replied, “Where will I find a wife?”

“Why,” said Koluskap, “We’ll ask the Chief for his daughter.” Turtle admitted that the Chief’s daughter was very nice, but, he said, “How can we get her?” Koluskap said, “I’ll go myself and get her.”

Koluskap went to see the chief with a bundle of furs, telling him what he wanted. The chief talked it over with his relations, asking them whether they should consent to have Turtle or not. “How could we marry someone who looks like a turtle?” asked the Chief’s wife. But the Chief noted, “Koluskap can make him any shape. Besides, we can’t refuse such a powerful man.” So they informed Koluskap there was to be a marriage and the people cheered.

Koluskap changed Turtle into a young man and told him to get his future wife to go pick some berries for the feast. They took some girls and the Chief’s son and crossed over to the island in t Read More
Koluskap and Turtle traveled to a town and stayed there a while, working. Finally Koluskap said to Turtle, “Uncle, you better get married.” To this Turtle replied, “Where will I find a wife?”

“Why,” said Koluskap, “We’ll ask the Chief for his daughter.” Turtle admitted that the Chief’s daughter was very nice, but, he said, “How can we get her?” Koluskap said, “I’ll go myself and get her.”

Koluskap went to see the chief with a bundle of furs, telling him what he wanted. The chief talked it over with his relations, asking them whether they should consent to have Turtle or not. “How could we marry someone who looks like a turtle?” asked the Chief’s wife. But the Chief noted, “Koluskap can make him any shape. Besides, we can’t refuse such a powerful man.” So they informed Koluskap there was to be a marriage and the people cheered.

Koluskap changed Turtle into a young man and told him to get his future wife to go pick some berries for the feast. They took some girls and the Chief’s son and crossed over to the island in two canoes. After the group had picked the berries, Koluskap advised them to return before it began to blow very hard. On the way back, Koluskap decided to play some tricks. He made Turtle show off by getting up and straddling the canoes. At that moment Koluskap shoved one canoe away and Turtle went overboard.

The canoes did not stop until someone remarked, “What was that that just went overboard?” Koluskap answered, “That, was my uncle.” The canoes turned about and found Turtle floundering about and after much difficulty they finally got him back into one of the canoes. The Chief’s daughter who was to marry Turtle was very ashamed.

On the evening of the third day was the great marriage feast. A man shouted, “Waldewak,” which meant “Bring your plates.” All the people brought their plates to get their food. Afterward, everyone danced until Turtle and the Chief’s daughter arrived, and they danced the short horn dance. About the middle of the night, they took the new husband and wife and put them to bed at the Chief’s camp.

The next morning the old Chief’s wife looked on the opposite side of the camp and saw a turtle’s back sticking out from under the blankets. “What is that turtle doing here again?” she asked, forgetting that the young man her daughter married was a turtle. She picked up a poker and began to jab him in the back. Her husband, the Chief, finally told her who it was and reminded her that their daughter’s husband was indeed a turtle.

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Turtle asked Koluskap what he needed to do as a married man. “Just like everyone else,” Koluskap advised. “Work and support and raise a family.” A few days later, Koluskap found Turtle still in the wigwam with his wife. Koluskap scolded him but Turtle said, “You told me to raise a family! That’s what I was trying to do!” Koluskap said, “I didn’t mean that.”

“What did you mean then?” Turtle asked. Koluskap explained that he meant for Turtle to go hunting, like every other man who gets married. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” asked an embarrassed Turtle. “I thought you knew,” replied Koluskap. “Everyone knows this.”

“Now,” said Koluskap, “go hunting! Get a whale!”

“How do I catch a whale?” inquired Turtle. And so Koluskap started to teach Turtle how to hunt.

Koluskap said to Turtle, “Go out to the ocean at low tide and make a deadfall. When the tide comes in, the whale will get caught in it. Use seven loads of logs for weights. Test it to see if you need more weight.”
Read More
Turtle asked Koluskap what he needed to do as a married man. “Just like everyone else,” Koluskap advised. “Work and support and raise a family.” A few days later, Koluskap found Turtle still in the wigwam with his wife. Koluskap scolded him but Turtle said, “You told me to raise a family! That’s what I was trying to do!” Koluskap said, “I didn’t mean that.”

“What did you mean then?” Turtle asked. Koluskap explained that he meant for Turtle to go hunting, like every other man who gets married. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” asked an embarrassed Turtle. “I thought you knew,” replied Koluskap. “Everyone knows this.”

“Now,” said Koluskap, “go hunting! Get a whale!”

“How do I catch a whale?” inquired Turtle. And so Koluskap started to teach Turtle how to hunt.

Koluskap said to Turtle, “Go out to the ocean at low tide and make a deadfall. When the tide comes in, the whale will get caught in it. Use seven loads of logs for weights. Test it to see if you need more weight.”

So Turtle built the trap and then wondered how to test it, especially the trigger. Finally he crawled in which sprung the trap, the weight of the logs coming down upon him. Turtle was caught in his own trap. He could not get out any way he squirmed. Koluskap, who was waiting for him, suspected something had happened, as he was making everything happen anyway. After Koluskap let Turtle suffer there for a day and a night, he wished him out of the trap saying to Turtle, “How did you get in there?” Turtle replied, “I was testing it.” Koluskap said, “I didn’t mean go in the trap, you could have tested it with a log. Then you would have seen how much it would hold.” They then returned to the village.

A week later, Koluskap asked Turtle, “Have you checked your trap to see how much you have caught? Uncle, this is what a married man does.” Early the next morning, when Turtle got to his trap, he found a big whale in it. He put the whale on his shoulder, returned to the village and threw it down at the door where Koluskap was staying. Turtle peaked in and said, “Nephew, I’ve got him.” Koluskap replied irritably, “You fool, you’re supposed to take it to the house of your wife’s father.”

So Turtle threw the whale over his shoulder again and took it to the Chief’s house. The Chief examined the whale and was very surprised and impressed. “Never could a man carry a whale before,” said the Chief.

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Kcihknac papehcimal Koluskapol, “kekw olohke Nisowit skitap”.

“Ktahcowolohk naka kolankey owan ksiwiyik,” Koluskap tiyal.

Nit te yakw eyit wikowak.

“Cowitpot knaci kotonkan,” itom Koluskap, naciphan potep.

Mate kenok nihtawehtowon. ‘Tahcowokehkimal Koluskap.

“Oli suhpekok kiskok naka ktolihton kolhikon. Ckupehek, co potep kpotha. Wehkahan olowikonok towanol naka ktokecehton tan weci kisessik.”

Kcihknaqc kisihton. Kenok etoli kwecehtak on ‘pothosin. Alowi notelosu.

Nit eli pskowat Koluskap. “Cowitpotohpon ktowehkan kotok ktowan kecehtowon,” tiyal.

Apc nektsontek, Koluskap kisi yahal weci natsakihtak kolhikon. Kcihknac pothal potepol. On ‘topaciphan naka sotomowan kloskapol. “Mosa yot ponahkoc, ktahcowi liptouwan Sakom.” Nit tena kisi olohket.

Kcihknac papehcimal Koluskapol, “kekw olohke Nisowit skitap”.

“Ktahcowolohk naka kolankey owan ksiwiyik,” Koluskap tiyal.

Nit te yakw eyit wikowak.

“Cowitpot knaci kotonkan,” itom Koluskap, naciphan potep.

Mate kenok nihtawehtowon. ‘Tahcowokehkimal Koluskap.

“Oli suhpekok kiskok naka ktolihton kolhikon. Ckupehek, co potep kpotha. Wehkahan olowikonok towanol naka ktokecehton tan weci kisessik.”

Kcihknaqc kisihton. Kenok etoli kwecehtak on ‘pothosin. Alowi notelosu.

Nit eli pskowat Koluskap. “Cowitpotohpon ktowehkan kotok ktowan kecehtowon,” tiyal.

Apc nektsontek, Koluskap kisi yahal weci natsakihtak kolhikon. Kcihknac pothal potepol. On ‘topaciphan naka sotomowan kloskapol. “Mosa yot ponahkoc, ktahcowi liptouwan Sakom.” Nit tena kisi olohket.

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

One day Koluskap said to his Uncle Turtle, “Your wife’s brothers, those young caribous, are going to play football and you should go with them. Afterward they are going to have some races.” The group went off to a field near the Chief’s camp and there they played. Turtle, in the shape of a man, performed excellently and Koluskap thought, “Hmmm, Turtle seems to be getting a little too proud. Let my uncle fall down.” Turtle fell down as Koluskap willed and the caribous tramped over him.

In the afternoon following the football game, they were going to have a foot race with the finish post near the Chief’s camp. When Turtle reached the crowd, the caribous said to him, “How can you run? You can barely walk! You better go back and not run as you will shame us all.” But as all the contestants lined up, Turtle was with them. He sprang into the lead immediately and when he got near the winning post, he leaped right over the Chief’s wigwam. Turtle did this a few more times, yelling with each jump. Koluskap, who had been watching the whole time, thought to himself, “Uncle, the next time you jump you’ll be cau Read More
One day Koluskap said to his Uncle Turtle, “Your wife’s brothers, those young caribous, are going to play football and you should go with them. Afterward they are going to have some races.” The group went off to a field near the Chief’s camp and there they played. Turtle, in the shape of a man, performed excellently and Koluskap thought, “Hmmm, Turtle seems to be getting a little too proud. Let my uncle fall down.” Turtle fell down as Koluskap willed and the caribous tramped over him.

In the afternoon following the football game, they were going to have a foot race with the finish post near the Chief’s camp. When Turtle reached the crowd, the caribous said to him, “How can you run? You can barely walk! You better go back and not run as you will shame us all.” But as all the contestants lined up, Turtle was with them. He sprang into the lead immediately and when he got near the winning post, he leaped right over the Chief’s wigwam. Turtle did this a few more times, yelling with each jump. Koluskap, who had been watching the whole time, thought to himself, “Uncle, the next time you jump you’ll be caught in one of the poles of the wigwam.” And it happened just as Koluskap had thought. Turtle got stuck on one of the wigwam poles and turned back into a turtle. There he was, stretching his legs, trying to get loose, and feeling very embarrassed.

Koluskap, now inside the wigwam, pretended not to notice the silly turtle struggling above him. Instead, Koluskap picked up a poker and stirred the fire, making sparks and smoke fly out the top of the wigwam into Turtle’s face. Choking, Turtle yelled, “Stop poking the fire!” Looking up, Koluskap saw Turtle and shaking his head said, “What are you doing up there, Uncle? You always want to do more than the other men, and now you are caught.”

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

The following winter, when the snow covered the ground and the time was good for hunting moose all the Chief’s sons were making snowshoes. Koluskap said, “Uncle Turtle, go and make snowshoes to go with them.” Turtle asked how big he should make the snowshoes and Koluskap replied, “Seven times the span of your palm.”

Turtle then went and told the Chief, “I will make proper fine mesh snowshoes to accompany you hunting.” Not liking Turtle very much, the Chief’s wife said, “He won’t keep up to you. He’ll get snowed under.” The Chief disagreed, saying, “Remember, he brought a whale home on his back.”

They finished the snowshoes and started out. Turtle soon trailed behind because he kept falling down, finally becoming so sore he could barely walk. Disgusted, the Chief’s sons said, “What good are you? You can’t even snowshoe. You are just a bother to us.” One brother said, “We told you not to come.” Another said, “Put him on the toboggan. He can look after it when we get back. That’s about all he’s good for.”

N Read More
The following winter, when the snow covered the ground and the time was good for hunting moose all the Chief’s sons were making snowshoes. Koluskap said, “Uncle Turtle, go and make snowshoes to go with them.” Turtle asked how big he should make the snowshoes and Koluskap replied, “Seven times the span of your palm.”

Turtle then went and told the Chief, “I will make proper fine mesh snowshoes to accompany you hunting.” Not liking Turtle very much, the Chief’s wife said, “He won’t keep up to you. He’ll get snowed under.” The Chief disagreed, saying, “Remember, he brought a whale home on his back.”

They finished the snowshoes and started out. Turtle soon trailed behind because he kept falling down, finally becoming so sore he could barely walk. Disgusted, the Chief’s sons said, “What good are you? You can’t even snowshoe. You are just a bother to us.” One brother said, “We told you not to come.” Another said, “Put him on the toboggan. He can look after it when we get back. That’s about all he’s good for.”

Next morning they set out for moose and Turtle insisted on going along much to the annoyance of the Chief’s sons. They came to a yard and one of the sons said, “The moose have started,” and Turtle was instructed to follow the hunters. They all started after the moose but immediately Turtle fell down, the others tramping over him with their snowshoes. Turtle found himself buried under the snow and had difficulty regaining his feet. Koluskap, who had been observing all of this, thought it was time his Uncle did better. So Turtle struck out again, jumping over the low trees instead of going around them. He passed by the Chief’s sons but they did not recognize him because he was going so fast. They couldn’t even follow his trail as his steps were so far apart.

When the Chief’s sons finally caught up, Turtle had killed and skinned the moose, and had even cooked dinner. The Chief’s sons felt very ashamed of the way they had treated Turtle earlier. After the meal, they went back for their toboggans and loaded two quarters of moose each, but there remained two moose. Turtle piled it all on his toboggan but one brother remarked sarcastically, “He can’t haul that much.” Turtle once again used the power given by Koluskap and finding a short cut, arrived ahead of the others. Seeing how far ahead Turtle was, one of the Chief’s sons said to the others, “He is still going. We have to keep going or he will say how weak we are.”

During the night, the Chief woke up and went to get wood for the fire. Hearing the sound of a toboggan on snow, he saw Turtle coming with the load of moose meat. The Chief said to his wife, “Turtle is coming with moose meat.” But she replied, “Do you suppose Turtle could haul all of that? It is our sons.” The Chief woke his daughter anyway, telling her to get some food ready for her husband. Soon Turtle appeared, and the Chief said to his wife, “See, he has two moose in one load”. The Chief’s sons did not arrive until the next morning, utterly exhausted. Koluskap then went to see his Uncle and praised him for his great hunting feat.

© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Maurice Sacobie discusses seeing a forerunner

I remember one time in Oromocto there, back as a young man we go up there at night; I’d go up there, eh. My godmother, she had a bunch of girls there, eh, young girls, and where she lived there’s a little dirt road going, and on the right hand side there’s a little brook and there’s a little ridge there. We’s all standing on the hill, just a bunch of boys and me. Somebody looked, “Look, what’s that across the brook, somebody with a white head.” We used to call that a forerunner, eh. We started running, harder, to my godmother’s house, ran in, fell in, eh, “What’s the matter with you fellas?” Didn’t bother her. She said, “Nobody out there.” “Yes there is!” Come to find out who done that was her son down there, scaring us. He come in later on, [indecipherable] it was so real, eh, you couldn’t, tricks being done like were just, so real, you know, live.

Courtesy of Maurice Sacobie

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Maurice Sacobie discusses his father seeing a forerunner

Boys that’s when my father used to tell me a lot of the stories there about where we lived. Well I’m talking before my time, but he used to live there you know where the church is? There, anyway, anyway, he used to have to go to the store every night, I guess to get something like for his mother and said he’d walk up there every night. And each night come back, he said there’d be somebody following him. Why I couldn’t see nobody, doesn’t see a light, doesn’t even stop, walking. Then, another night, up here, there’s like a break in the fence up there. There’s something running back and forth, every time I walk by, it run back and forth, back and forth. You know sound like a horse, he said this here thing here fall in behind and every night I go to store. There’s a little gully there when I get to that, he says, I’d see the house, the house he said, that’s when I’d start stretching my legs a little more that thing was right behind me. And as soon as I get into that old gully that thing would disappear so when I got to the house see the lights, well, he could see the lamps, eh, the gully’s down here and that’s when I’d start running. He said, I couldn’t see that thing anymore every other night, well, every time he’d go to the store somebody’s there. I don’t know, forerunners or somebody, you know?

Courtesy of Maurice Sacobie

New Brunswick, CANADA
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Stories in the Oral Tradition Learning Object is designed for students and educators to meet the following objectives:

  • investigate how artistic and literary expression reflects the following aspects of Canadian identity: landscape, climate, history, people-citizenship, and related challenges and opportunities
  • evaluate patterns for preserving, modifying, and transmitting culture while adapting to environmental or social change 
  • follow up on and extend others’ ideas in order to reflect upon their own interpretation of experiences 
  • effectively adapt language and delivery for a variety of audiences and situations in order to achieve their goals or intents 
  • critically evaluate others’ use of language and use this knowledge to reflect on and improve their own uses of language 
  • adapt language and communication style to audience, purpose, and situation 
  • assess ideas, information and language, synthesizing and applying meaning from diverse and differing perspectives 
  • make connections between the ideas and information presented in literary and media texts and their own experiences 
  • recognize how the artful use of language and the structures of genre and text can influence or manipulate the reader/viewer 
  • explore the diverse ways in which texts reveal and produce ideologies, identities, and positions 
  • reflect on their responses to print and media texts, considering their own and others’ social and cultural contexts 
  • use writing and other ways of representing to explore, interpret, and reflect on their experiences with a range of texts and issues
  • use writing and other ways of representing to express their feelings, and reflect on experiences that have shaped their ideas, values, and attitudes 
  • make informed choices about the use of computer and media technology to serve their communication purposes 
  • demonstrate a commitment to crafting a range of writing and other representations 
  • use information from a variety of sources to construct and communicate meaning

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