Program 108: Turtle Island Storytellers

The Grandmother Cedar Tree Story

Johnny Moses

Johnny Moses

with Johnny Moses

Arlie Neskahi:
Johnny Moses is a Samish speaking storyteller raised in the remote Nuu-chah-nulth village of Ohiat on the west coast of Vancouver island, British Columbia. Today on Turtle Island Storytellers, he shares the story of Grandmother Cedar Tree.

Johnny Moses:
The Grandmother Cedar Tree story will be told in the Samish language and English. This story originated among the Samish people…then it traveled to Vancouver Island as our stories travel with the women in our tribe. As they would marry into another tribe, they would carry the stories with them. And this is how this story was thought of, as a Cowitchen story, but it is not a Cowitchen story. It originates among our people in the Samish area.

This is The Grandmother Cedar Tree Story.

(Speaking in Samish) Long ago there lived a very large grandmother cedar tree. She was very tall and strong (speaking in Samish) and she was sad and lonely.

Autum Colors

Autumn Colors. October 4, 2003 Photo courtesy of Wade B. Clark, Jr.

She felt like she was drowning in her sorrow. (speaking in Samish) The Creator felt her sorrow and told the south wind to carry a baby seed that was a little cedar tree, and plant it next to her, the grandmother. As the seed was planted, Seetla, Grandma Cedar Tree, her tears of sorrow became tears of joy. She was not lonely anymore, and she called this baby seed the Little Cedar Tree, (speaking in Samish) is the grandson. There as he grew, he grew fresh branches, new arms. And the animals loved to chew on the branches or brush against them, but she’d move her strong arms back and forth and scare the animals away. (Speaking in Samish) Then Grandson felt so good he’d grow some more. Sometimes the north wind was so strong, and being that he was very young and thin he felt like he would bend and break, but Seetla, Grandmother would put her strong arms around her grandson and protect him from the strong north wind. (Speaking in Samish) He’d grow some more. Sometimes the heat and sunlight was unbearable. It felt like the sun was burning his skin. Seetla, grandmother would put her arms over her grandson. (Speaking in Samish) and give her grandson shade. (Speaking in Samish)

He’d feel so good he’d grow some more. Now the grandson became very tall and very strong, but sometimes he felt lonely and sad. So Seetla, she used her strong mind and she sent her strong mind out to the forest land and she called all the birds of many kinds to come and land on her strong arms, her branches, and sing for the grandson. And the songs carried his loneliness and sorrow away. Grandson felt so good he grew some more. (Speaking in Samish) Many seasons passed, many years. Seetla, Grandmother became old and tired and weak. she said, “I don’t want to live any more. I’m so tired of living. I feel so sick.” (Speaking in Samish)

Music:
Robbie Robertson
The Vanished Breed
Music For The Native Americans
Capitol Records

View from the South Rim. Big Bend National Park. Photo by Brad Holmes. Courtesy of the National Parks Service.

View from the South Rim. Big Bend National Park. Photo by Brad Holmes. Courtesy of the National Parks Service.

Her grandson could feel his grandmother’s loneliness and sorrow. And he said, “Grandmother, remember when the animals came to bother me you moved your arms back and forth and scared them away? Grandmother, I have strong arms now. I will move my arms back and forth (speaking in Samish) and scare the animals away. Grandmother, (speaking in Samish), Grandmother, when the north wind came, I was so thin, I felt like I would bend and break, did you not put your arms around me and protect me?

Grandmother, I have strong arms now. I will put them around you and protect you from the strong north wind. (Speaking in Samish) When the heat and the sunlight was unbearable, did you not put your arms over me and give me shade? Grandmother, I have strong arms now. I will put them over you and give you shade. (Speaking in Samish) Grandmother, when I was weak and lonely and sad, did you not feel my thoughts? And you sent your strong mind out to the forest land and you called the birds and they came and they sang for me and carried my loneliness and sorry away. (Speaking in Samish)

Bald Eagle. February 10, 2004. Courtesy of Wade B. Clark, Jr.

Bald Eagle. February 10, 2004. Courtesy of Wade B. Clark, Jr.

Grandmother, I have a strong mind now. I will send my strong mind out to the forest land and I will call the birds and they will come and they will land on my strong arms and they will sing for you and carry your loneliness and sorrow away.”

(Speaking in Samish) Grandmother, you took care of me. Now I will take care of you. And that is all.

Music:
Medicine Dream
Msit Nokamaq
Mawio’mi
Canyon Records

Neskahi:
Johnny Moses, whose traditional name is Whis Stem Men Knee (Walking Medicine Robe), carries the sacred breath, sacred life medicine teachings and healing ceremonies of his northwest coast people. You can learn more about him on his web site at johnnymoses.com.