Wolastoq language has a storytelling code which uses verbs to describe actions as if they are occurring in present time. This helps the listener visualize what characters are doing and how things are happening in his or her mind. When the story is told in the places which were originally created, a solid experience and teaching occurs. It gives the listener a gift which he or she can pass on to others.

There are hundreds of stories about Koluskap, whose name means “good man”. He is a powerful being who created himself and gave himself the gift of transforming negative into positive. Stories about the places Koluskap created and recreated give Wolastoqiyik not just a territory where they belong, but also a place in the universe. The stories reinforce a connection to the land and the places where ancestors lived and worked. Places of fishing, hunting, gathering food and medicines were named so that future generations could continue to survive. Koluskap stories about animal encounters in those named places reinforced memory.

The stories are also about time and beliefs. Animal giants take us back to the time of the dinosaur, reaffirming the belief of Wolastoqiyik having been here since time immemorial. The stories confirm that Koluskap loves his people. When the giant frog drank up the river and caused a drought, Koluskap came to the rescue when requested to do so. He made the frog into present day size so no more damage would occur. He also made Wolastoq better by creating more tributaries to the river; she would never go dry again.

The exploits between Koluskap and Beaver are prevalent because Beaver is a land and water animal. Wolastoqiyik are land and water people. The parallel is intentional because the lessons are directed to the listener about the creation of harmonious living. Consequences always occur when spiritual laws are broken. Even giants (bigger than humans) are reduced in size.

Many place names have survived to this day. Many other names are returning to this land.  This attests to the power of ancestors to reach future generations – the descendents who now reach back for that sense of belonging.
In The Spirit of Mother Earth
Schmidt, Jeremy
1994 McQuiston & McQuiston
San Francisco

Expressive Culture
Akwe: Kon Journal
1994 Cornell University
Vol. XI, Nos 3 & 4, Ithaca; New York

Unbroken Circles
Northeast Indian Quarterly 1990
VII, No 4, Winter

Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume
Paternak, Josephine
1994 WW Norton & Co. Inc.
New York; New York

The Sacred
Beck, Peggy V; Francisco, Nia; Walters, Anna Lee
1977 Navajo Community College Press
Tsaile, Arizona

The Wabenakis of Maine & the Maritimes
1989 American Friends Committee

Gwen Bear
c. 2007
© 2007, New Brunswick Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans