Sunday, October 26, 2008

Widows Pause for Breath, She Carries Her Brother on Her Back

For anthropology, we are reading Wisdom Sits in Places by Keith Basso. It is about Western Apache place-names, descriptions of the land that are not only names but stories of historical and cultural importance.

"Each story is concerned with disruptive social acts, with everyday life gone out of control, and each concludes with a stark reminder that trouble would not have occurred if people had behaved in ways they knew they should. Each depicts the anguish of those who erred and the depth of their regret" (28).

The story of Big Cottonwood Trees Stand Here and There:

"Long ago, the Pimas and Apaches were fighting. The Pimas were carrying long clubs made from mesquite wood; they were also heavy and hard. Before dawn the Pimas arrived at Cibecue and attacked the Apaches there. The Pimas attacked while the Apaches were still asleep. The Pimas killed the Apaches with their clubs. An old woman woke up. She heard the Apaches crying out. The old woman thought it was her son-in-law because he often picked on her daughter. The old woman cried out: 'You pick on my child a lot. You should act pleasantly toward her.' Because the old woman cried out the Pimas learned where she was. The Pimas came running to the old woman's camp and killed her with their clubs. A young girl ran away from there and hid beneath some bushes. She alone survived.

"It happened at Big Cottonwood Trees Stand Here and There."

...

Yesterday I asked my class of five-year-olds if they knew the story of Hansel and Gretel.

T: It's HAND-sel, not HAN-sel!
Me: I say HAN-sel! That's how I say it.
R: I know this story!
Me: So what happens at the beginning? Hansel and Gretel's parents don't have enough food for everyone and they have to take them into the forest and leave them behind.

R. looked at me and shook her head in fear. She said she didn't want to do this play. I was totally fascinated that I had so freaked her out with one sentence, because this is the same little girl who likes to yell POOP at every opportunity, and run around the room until she falls and bumps her elbow and then cries and I have to give her a hug and ask if she thinks she'll live. Anyway, we got through the plot, and then I had them stand up to act it out. I put on some eerie Rachel's song. I played the dad (who wants to be the dad, right?) and gave them a hug before I abandoned them in the woods, and they totally acted out the fear, and the confusion, and the lostness, and the surprise of the candy house. I was very impressed and I'm pretty sure I did the right thing by having them act out what they were so afraid of.

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