Tyendinaga Tales
(Mcgill-Queen's University Press,
1988; paperback, 1998)

Rona Rustige saw a gap in the folklore of her region, and she sought to fill it with Tyendinaga Tales.

There are plenty of stories collected from the various Iroquois peoples of North America, but none seemed to exist in written form from the Mohawk tribe of the Tyendinaga Indian Reservation in Hastings County, Ontario. So, while the tribe's people now live modern lifestyles, retaining few of their distinctive customs and stories, Rustige spoke with tribal elders and collected 19 tales that they recalled from their youth. This book presents her findings in a manner that can be saved and preserved for future generations of the tribe as well as folklore enthusiasts.

These are stories that were told in the ancient oral tradition of many Native American tribes, and anyone who has read collections from other regions will recognize some of these tales, albeit in slightly altered form. Here, the creation of the Earth and the movement of the sun are explained. The evolution of certain animals -- the thrush's song, the rabbit's stubby legs and the bear's short tale, for instance -- are revealed. There are tales of the twins, the good Taronhiakwa:kon and the evil Tawiske:ron, who helped to shape the world as we know it. Here, too, the great bear, the three hunters and their fearless dog take their place in the heavens.

Tyendinaga Tales is a short collection, and each tale takes only a few minutes to read. They are told in the style of the people who related them to Rustige, to retain the flair of each native storyteller. Anyone who enjoys Native American myths should enjoy this short but delightful book that preserves the tales of a forgotten tribal tradition.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 20 March 2004

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