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picture1 Mar 2003 @ 13:19, by Quidnovi

The following story is from a Wampanoag Nation Storyteller named Manitonquat (which means Medicine Story, or Healing Story), at a presentation he made to the Connecticut Storytelling Association conference in New London, CT.

At the heart of Manitonquat's philosophy is the notion of "give-away"---something about gathering from one's life all the awareness one can, and then to pass it out freely to those who are interested.

One of Manitonquat's neatest stories is of porpoises, a favorite animal of his coastal tribal nation. His grandfather told this story; he could tell it in 5 minutes, or telescope it to an hour or more, depending on the audience.

It seems there was a huge monster terrifying the people- it had many sharp teeth, and was very big, and was tearing up nets, attacking people, and generally causing trouble. Moshaup (a cultural hero) went to talk with the monster, first. Respect is the first rule of life, and the second is patience- so Moshaup tried both. However, the monster refused to listen, or to stop causing trouble. Moshaup eventually noticed his patience wearing thin, so he decided to hunt the monster. He gave chase, and was able to stick his spear in its back. The monster felt nothing though, and the handle broke off. The spearhead stayed, though, and it did some good, as it warned people that the monster was approaching- they could see the spearhead cutting through the water.

Moshaup then went to the porpoises. He knew that porpoises liked humans, though they thought humans were much too serious at times. He told them they were very smart (as indeed they are- their brains, especially the cerebral cortex, are larger than human brains, both in size and by comparison to body weight. Porpoises may have gone back to the sea, along with whales, and they've had a very long time to perfect their culture.) He asked them to do something about the monster. The porpoises said the monster had sharp teeth for weapons, and was very mean, and they avoided it. Moshaup responded that he knew they were very intelligent, that the porpoise's weapon was brains, and that they could figure out a solution to the monster, but that he didn't and couldn't know what it was.

The porpoises formed a council circle, (where one can see each person's eyes, where all are equal, in a circle, the source of power in Native culture) and each spoke in turn. The first said that they lacked the education and training to take on the monster- they couldn't fight, they were non-violent. The second wasn't sure exactly what they should be doing; they weren't trained warriors, and couldn't take on such a big fish- there was certainly no reason to do what they couldn't do. The third said that they were smart, and so could figure out an answer. The fourth said, "Oh, I know, listen, what we're good at is playing, and having fun. Why not do what we do best already? What do you say we play with the monster? We're experts at fun, and having a good time. He'll either have to loosen up, or leave, or go nuts." They all agreed it was a good plan. Besides, we know that a path is correct when there is fun attached to the activity, because that is how the Creator marks out the correct path for us. If you can solve a problem having fun, you know the solution is the right one.

And that's just what they did. They crowded round the monster, and started turning cartwheels, jumping and diving. The monster fish was very serious, and tried to swim away quickly, but the porpoises were too fast, and kept up with him. One would bite his tail, and when the monster turned to get him, two more porpoises would swim in and poke the monster with their dorsal fins, while another would butt the monster in the stomach with its beak. The monster was driven to distraction, and eventually dived so deep the porpoises couldn't follow, and went away and never returned. The porpoises told their cousins, the dolphins, about the monster, and they all thought playing with monsters was a great idea. It is so to this day- if you see porpoises or their cousins, the dolphins, playing in the water, you may be sure no sharks are about, as the porpoises will drive them away.

The above article comes from the library of Michael Patterson (copyright 1999): Storytelling, The Art Form Of Painting Pictures With Your Tongue

This story and others in a similar vein are presented in the book Children of the Morning Light, available from Medicine Story: 173 Merriam Hill Rd, Greenville, NH 03048 USA Tel: (603) 878-3201

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