James Bruchac

"It was said, long ago ..."

Part of Meadow Pond Elementary fourth grade curriculum is to read “The Sign of the Beaver” by Elizabeth George Speare, historical fiction set in the late 1700s about a young boy who survives the challenges of living in the Maine wilderness with the help of Attean, an Abenaki boy. 

Bruchac showed students that many of the Native traditions in the novel are still very much alive today. He also shared his unique connection to “The Sign of the Beaver.” His father, award-winning author and storyteller Joseph Bruchac, wrote the introduction.

“When I say ‘ho,’ you say ‘hey,’” Bruchac told the students. “This is what the Abenaki do. Ho?”

“Hey,” the students agreed.

Bruchac asked the students what resources Native people had access to. Students named soil, rocks, animals, plants, water, and sunshine. “From these things, Native people shaped everything they needed to survive and thrive by using their most important natural resources—their minds,” Bruchac said.

“It was said, long ago …” Beginning in that way, Bruchac captivated students with traditional stories about a flying head, “bigfoot,” and a toad woman—each one imparting a lesson about survival. Stay close to the village. Do not surprise a moose. Be alert.

Engaging Students' Minds