Abenaki storyteller imparts life lessons to Hawlemont students

  • Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene shares stories during an assembly for students at Hawlemont Regional Elementary School on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Sixth-grader Aiden Jones, right, looks at story stones held by Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene that she uses to remember her numerous stories. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Left, Willow Greene holds some of the stones she uses to remember her numerous stories. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Above, Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene visited the students of Hawlemont Regional Elementary School with her grandchildren Ayden, 11, and Rylyn, 10. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene, right, with her grandchildren Ayden, 11, and Rylyn, 10, visited the students of Hawlemont Regional Elementary School on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Various objects brought by Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene to show to students during an assembly at Hawlemont Regional Elementary School on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene speaks during an assembly for students at Hawlemont Regional Elementary School on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene speaks during an assembly for students at Hawlemont Regional Elementary School on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Published: 11/24/2019 10:01:36 PM

CHARLEMONT — More than 30 years ago, Abenaki storyteller Willow Greene set foot in Hawlemont Regional Elementary School for her first appearance. With a background in art, she remembers that storytelling seemed like a long shot for her.

“I never intended to do this,” she said of storytelling. “I just sort of fell into it.”

On Wednesday, Greene returned to Hawlemont once again to share traditional stories peppered with life lessons during an all-school assembly, this time accompanied by her grandchildren, who modeled traditional dress.

Greene’s 10-year-old granddaughter, Rylyn, passed out story stones to students, who would, in turn, pass them back to Greene.

“(Each stone) reminds me of a different story, and that’s the story I’m going to tell,” Greene explained. “There is a kernel of truth to them. It’s up to you to hear that blessing.”

To show that each aspect of our world has its own purpose and is interconnected with the rest of our environment, Greene told a story of the warrior Gluskabe, who was formed with creation dust.

Gluskabe wanted to get rid of the wind, so that he could paddle his canoe without too much resistance, and badgered Grandmother Woodchuck to tell him how wind is made.

‘“If I tell you, you’ll only get into trouble,’ Grandmother Woodchuck said,” Greene recounted, layering a lesson on listening to the wisdom of one’s elders.

Eventually, Grandmother Woodchuck relented, which led Gluskabe to find and trick the Eagle, who creates the wind. When Gluskabe saw how oppressively hot and buggy a windless day is, he brought the Eagle back to the mountaintop to restore wind.

While distributing story stones to the students, Rylyn showed off a traditional dress decorated with dozens of bells.

“A well-dressed jingle dancer always has a purse and always has a fan,” Greene noted.

Greene’s grandson, Ayden, 11, wore straps with bells around his knees, which Greene said are typically made with deer toes instead of bells to make the same sound.

Greene’s visit to Hawlemont was mediated by the Nolumbeka Project, an organization that “provides education about Native Americans and the persistent indigenous cultures” in the area, said David Brule, chair of the Nolumbeka Project.

“We don’t have affiliation with a tribe. We are educators,” Brule said, adding that the Nolumbeka Project has been working with the Abenaki, Nipmuck, Naragansett and Wampanoag tribes for the last 15 years.

Brule said the Nolumbeka Project visited Hawlemont a few weeks ago to teach students how to build seed balls and shelters for mason bees out of milk cartons. The Nolumbeka Project has been working in six Franklin County schools this year.

What makes storytelling trips to schools so special, Greene said, is the ability for students “to learn from our stories.”

It also gives her a sense of immortality.

“I’ll never die,” Greene said, because her stories are passed down to others, most importantly her grandchildren, who will remember Greene, her stories and the lessons they impart.

Ten years ago, Greene retired from storytelling when she became the sole caregiver of her grandchildren, who are both in fifth grade. A year and a half ago, though, she began storytelling once again, and said she feels like she’s in the right place.

“This is like the air I breathe,” Greene said. “I can’t imagine not doing this.”

Reach Maureen O’Reilly at moreilly@recorder.com or at 413-772-0261, ext. 280.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2020 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy