Introduction & Teacher Background
Glaciers: A Native American View
The Stories of Ice
The people who lived along the margins of the mountains spent their lives among the works of ice. They camped by kettle lakes, witnessed the uniformity of drumlins, and understood the composition of various kinds of moraines. They carefully examined the rocks of the mountains in their determination to make the best possible tools. They scratched their heads in wonder when they came across mountain boulders lying in isolation miles from their origin. They needed to find explanations. They needed to answer their children’s how and why questions.
Every tribe in the area has a version of the story "Napi Travels With Fox and Punishes a Rock." The story teaches the animism of seemingly inanimate objects and attempts to provide an explanation for glacial erratics. There was simply no way to explain how huge boulders could find their way miles out onto the prairie when their obvious origin was in the mountains. We now know that they were either deposited by glaciers or that they were rafted there on rotting icebergs in a glacial lake.
It is uncertain how literally Native Americans receive the ancient legends which everyone loved to hear and tell. Many native peoples have an abiding faith and belief in Old Man, Coyote and Napi as superhuman spiritual helpers that roam the Earth and do great deeds. Most adults are aware of and appreciate the employment of metaphor and other creative language devices to convey the essence of an oral tradition. Some people regard the stories as instructive mythology. While the great majority of Native Americans are highly spiritual, all of The People understand that some of the traditional stories are simply meant to provide good entertainment.
Now, here is the scientific explanation for the Waterton-Glacier Story: The Work of Ice.
Activity 1: Breaking it Down
Activity 2: Carving Mountains
Activity 3: Model Glaciers
Last updated: November 8, 2017