My mother always read bedtime stories and there were many. I do not remember everyone, and it is even difficult to remember some of them at times. When she did not have a book handy, then she would tell a story. Stories she heard growing up. She talked about the Gaga. She never said it was a man. It was always described as more of a monster, although she never said that either. Once the story was told, it was easy to say, make sure you are home before dark or gaga will get you. Or stay in bed or gaga will get you. Most of the stories she told had a lesson. A moral or value involved, and many were not given a beginning, middle and end as stories are written and told now. It was up to the listener to figure out the end to the story especially. To figure out what was meant by the story. My mother was living when my children were told about the Gaga. They would get home before dark, and they would stay in bed once they went to bed. I was thinking how unnecessary and still they both love scary stories and movies. So maybe it was just me that did not like that as I do not like watching scary movies and have not as a child or as an adult woman.
My mother had heard stories of owls as messengers growing up. Messengers of death. She did not share those stories with me that I remember but she did not have to as we had a real live experience with an owl. My second baby was thought to have sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), as he stopped breathing when he was one month old. I was told he would outgrow this condition at about 2 ½ years old. I did not sleep much when he was sleeping during his first couple years of life. When he was almost 2, he was congested, and my mother was steaming him in the bathroom most nights. She told me later that she had been watching an owl at the end of the road. One night, the owl came to the window where my son was sleeping. My mother got frantic, and I thought I was not going to let it affect me. My son described the man with big eyes that was at his 2nd story window. I was inconsolable until a couple friends both told me that owls are messengers, and it did not have to be of death. Then someone said to remember to love the ones you are with as none of us know when our time is up. I started an owl collection as a reminder to love the ones you are with. Many of my Native American friends did not like that and would not come to my house or get in my car one time when I had a stuffed owl in my car. I have discontinued my collection other than a few that continue to remind me to love the ones I am with.
One of the stories I remember my mother reading to us was about a black family. I was already ten years old and would listen at story time and sometimes I would read at story time as I was the oldest of five siblings at the time. We had only one black family living in the town we lived in after we moved up north. The man was a professor at the college. I remember the story being so warm hearted and kind. It was read over and over. I do not remember any Native American children’s books then. And I am grateful that there are children’s books about Native American people now.
Then there were the stories of the Little People in the woods and by the water. They were mostly mischievous, and they have not been seen for a while we were told. They will come out to play with you if you are alone in the woods, and they can shrink you down and keep you with them in the woods. It is not good to be in the woods by yourself. The Little People may find you and keep you. And remember to not go by the water by yourself as they will take you for sure as they will think your parents are not taking good care of you. I would remember those stories up in the Boundary Water Canoe Area (BWCA) but as an adult, I knew I was okay, I just wasn't sure about my babies!
Finally, we were told Nanaboozhoo stories when the snow was on the ground. Nanaboozhoo was a trickster and played pranks on people and animals. There was always a lesson to be learned from Nanaboozhoo stories. A lot of stories about why things are the way they are now. As an older woman now, I feel so blessed to have heard so many stories. Stories I have heard from my mother and others. Our Ojibwe people have an oral tradition and many of the stories have been passed down over many, many years.
About the Creator
I am married with 7 children, 27 grands, and 12 great-grandchildren. I am a culture consultant part-time. I write A Poem a Day in February for 8 years now. I wrote 4 - 50,000 word stories in NaNoWriMo. I write on Vocal/Medium weekly.