Posted on November 25, 2017
A few weeks ago, I received an email asking if I would like to have a familiar friend come share a story with our class. I jumped on the offer. Our dear friend is Mr. Jerry Drino, the grandfather of one our classmates. When his grandson was in our class, he came twice to share - the first time with a feather money belt that they had discovered at an auction house. The next time to share a Navajo tale of sandpainting.
Mr. Drino and his granddaughter:
The children and I were excited to have Mr. Drino visit because we know that he always has something exciting and profound to share with us. This visit was no exception. He told us the creation story of the Amah Mutsun people. They are an indigenous people of the San Jose and Monterey area of California. We learned that they are one of 250 different indigenous groups who once populated the Bay area. If you get a chance, ask your child how they resolved their differences without fighting.
The Amah Mutsun creation story features Eagle, Hawk, Hummingbird, Badger, Coyote, Badger, and Man. Like many stories of this type, there are common themes: creation of land and living creatures, fire, and floods.
As he was telling the story, the students were asked to use their imagination to visualize the story. He gave each students kernels of colorful Indian corn to inspire them to think about the colors of the story. Soon the students were drawing their ideas about the story using their memories and imagination to retell the story.
An interpretation of the flood:
Eagle carrying Hummingbird and Coyote to safety atop Mount Umunhum:
Hummingbird whose throat is red due to the fire given to him by the Badger people:
One student's own creation tale:
Sharing our creation tale images:
As we were sharing our own retelling of the story, Mr. Drino shared that at this moment in time, it is likely that we are the only people on Earth telling this story. And that our interpretations are an original creation story in themselves. During the conversation, the students quickly connected the Amah Mutsun to the stories of Maui and other creation stories are familiar with. Soon they were asking deep, existential questions such as: The Creator created Eagle and the others in the story, who created The Creator? Of course there is no concrete answer to questions such as this, but there was much theorizing.
This conversation highlighted the thinking tendencies of many of the children. As Mr. Drino later noted, there were those who approached the story with scientific thought and those who understood the meaning of the myth without needing proof. The bigger lesson of the story is that we are all interconnected. All life on Earth needs each other in order to survive. We must take care of not only ourselves, but all life on Earth.
One thing that struck me is the fragility of creation stories. Mr. Drino shared that Mount Umunhum, named for the Hummingbird is a peak near his home. Until recently, it was closed to the public. Now, the indigenous people have begun to gather once again on the peak to practice ancient cultural traditions. He was invited to participate and shared this story. One woman of Amah Mutsun descent had not heard the creation story of her people in its entirety. She had tears in her eyes as the story was shared. We owe it to our children to tell the creation stories of not only their cultural heritage but of the places where we live. It is through these stories, that we perpetuate a love and understanding of each other and the places that are so special to each of us.
Thank you, Mr. Drino, for your gift of story! We deeply appreciate it! And look forward to the next time you visit!
Next up are student-parent-teacher conferences on Dec. 7th and 8th. If you haven't signed up for a conference, please do so.
I hope that all of you had a very Happy Thanksgiving!