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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 17, 2001 - Issue 49


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Steeped in Tradition


 by Joyce Bassett, Staff writer Times Union-November 1, 2001

When James Bruchac tells stories of the Native folk tradition to children of the Capital Region, they watch, listen and remember.

My daughter's fourth-grade Orenda Elementary School class visited Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa earlier this year to learn about Native American culture. She heard Bruchac tell a story about a tortoise and a beaver, and she recited the tale for her family at the dinner table.

Last weekend, Sarah and I visited Bruchac at his home base, the Ndakinna Education Center and Nature Preserve, where he was holding a fall trail walk and open house. Sarah immediately remembered James and Ivan Erchak, another instructor at the center, from her visit to Brookside. She also remembered much of what she had learned from the Ndakinna educators during her field trip.

"Isn't that a birch bark canoe?'' she asked during a tour of the education center. Outside, we toured a field with a wigwam and playing field. "Is that used for a game of double-ball?'' she asked?

Bruchac is the founder of the Ndakinna Wilderness Project in Greenfield Center, Saratoga County. When he isn't traveling throughout the U.S. as a storyteller, he continues to work on and expand the education center. He's not traveling for a couple of weeks, which is good news for families in the region who want to take advantage of his educational offerings. "Continuing the Circle: A Celebration of Native Folk Arts and Tradition'' will be held Saturday at the center to kick off a season of fall and winter offerings, with many events geared to families.

A simple trail walk comes to life under the guidance of Bruchac and Erchak. "I teach people to slow down when they are hiking trails,'' said Erchak, facility manager for the center, who pointed out trees and berries and bushes along the well-worn paths. Erchak is a graduate of the University of New Mexico and an expert survivalist who recently filmed a pilot for a TBS show called "Worst-Case Survival Scenario.'' He grew up in Saratoga County and plans a career helping youths learn about nature. Some of the classes he offers through the project include tracking and stalking games.

The education center includes displays of animal tracks found at the preserve. The day we were at the center, Erchak and James Bruchac's wife, Jean, a licensed guide and elementary school teacher, brought back plaster casts of the paw prints of a gray fox. Just for fun, they made plaster casts of their cat's paws to compare the two.

Of course, the conversation turned to the television show "Survivor,'' which is focusing public attention on outdoor survival training, one of the center's biggest attractions. (We didn't admit to liking it, but all admitted to watching it.)


     Maps by Travel

Ndakinna Wilderness Project
Offering educational wilderness adventures to people of all ages who wish to truly experience and learn more about the natural world. Ndakinna,is the Abenaki Indian word for the Northeast. For the past ten years, James Bruchac, Director of The Ndakinna Wilderness Project (NWP) and his staff have traveled across the United States offering programs in everything from tracking and wilderness skills to Native American storytelling.


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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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