Frog Mountain

Frog Mountain
(time 9:17)
Big Ideas:
Educators are encouraged to focus on four dominant themes throughout their planning and study of the Frog Mountain story. The themes integral to the story are 1) governance, 2) the environment, 3) survival, and 4) relationship. The following synopses will assist educators in meeting their learning objectives for their students.
Interior Salishan Language:
The Sinixt Peoples, also once referred to as the Lakes Indians, are Salish and speak a Sinixt dialect of the Interior Salishan language. The story begins with the word Kasapi, a word from the Interior Salishan language used to denote ‘a long time ago’. When doubled and then tripled as ‘Kasapi, Kasapi, Kasapi’ it elongates the timeframe to a very long time ago. Repetitiveness creates emphasis. In a similar way the term to express thank you, Lim Limpt, is often repeated four times to show a depth of gratitude.
What other words are repeated for emphasis in the story? – hopped and grew
Neighbouring tribes to the Sinixt spoke different dialects of the Interior Salishan language. Language and dialects are important in regards to defining territory. Think of ways the use of dialects of the same language would be beneficial to the Sinixt People and their neighbours.
Discuss the concept of drought. Relate the importance of water to the reality of the student, i.e. our bodies are made up of a large amount of water; without water we get thirsty (suffer dehydration).
What could occur during a drought? Examples: food growth diminishes as growth relies on water; fish go deeper in the water; people must travel further afield for foraging; families must work harder to survive; suffering from severe hunger and thirst may be witnessed/ experienced within the family or community; sacrifices are made for the needy; etc.
Death as a Journey
Indigenous People generally look at death as a transition rather than a time of darkness. It is more of a joyous occasion viewed as a rebirth. One is journeying unencumbered to the spirit world. In the story the Elder gave his ‘share’ away as he was not leaving his homeland and was preparing for his eventual death. During a time of grief and scarcity the survivors may not have the strength to bury those who had passed away. This goes against their cultural law that, as part of the journey, you must go back to the Earth.
Share fun experiences in caves: snow caves, echoes, shadows, crystals, stalactites, stalagmites, playing with flashlights, exploring, etc.
Do you think the Elder gave up hope at any point? Explain your reasoning.
Why do you think the Elder made his decision to stay?
In the story the narrator said the caves would make proper burial places for those who did not survive. Explain what you think is meant by that statement. – the caves would eventually collapse and bury the bodies; the bodies would go back to the Earth and the cultural law would be obeyed.
Research and discussion topic: In June and July of 2018 news around the world focused on the Tham Luang Nang Non cave rescue. A youth soccer team and their coach spent many days trapped in a cave. Topics could include leadership, preparedness, safety awareness, camaraderie, bravery, survival, community concern and support, rescue team effort, sacrifice of rescue team diver Saman Kunan, effect of international media coverage, never giving up, lessons learned, etc.
Importance of Knowledge Keepers
It is vital for the survival of a peoples that a continuum of practise exists. There are various layers or levels of knowledge keepers and skill-sets within a tribe; however, a master of a particular skill-set would be the one who holds a responsibility to the group for maintaining the continuum of that practise. It is a governance dynamic. Deliberate decisions would be made to ensure the survival of knowledge and skill-sets in a new land. Positions of responsibility for the continuity of practice would be assigned by the Elder or master. To exist as a peoples, you need to carry on with knowledge and skill groups. There are no reference books or ‘how to’ classes to assist you should the skill-set be lost or forgotten.
  • How are tribal identity and cultural practice intricately linked?
  • Why is the continuum of practice vitally important to Indigenous cultures?
  • How could this governance dynamic become a serious survival issue for tribal identity during a plan of exodus?
  • Older students could investigate the difference between the use of ‘peoples’ and ‘people’ in official documents, agreements, and declarations pertaining to Indigenous/human rights and why the ‘s’ is critical! (Hint: One has rights as a group, the other does not.)
Elders’ Influence
Elders were in leadership positions because they were knowledgeable, demonstrated good decision processes, were respected community members, and felt a great love for the people. Leaders were responsible for the survival of their people which necessarily included the continuity of their practise systems. The Elder in the story knows the land of his people, the laws of his homeland, and the Elder protocols that guide his responsibilities. His position would be redundant in someone else’s landscape as his knowledge would be unique to his own traditional territory. A leader would not insert him/herself into a leadership position somewhere else. (Is this one of the reasons he doesn’t feel he HAS to go?) Tribal members would have developed trust, faith, and respect for the leader and his nurturance, which in turn recognizes his responsibilities to his people. In the Frog Mountain story the Elder has no authority to say you all have to leave, but he does have the authority (or responsibility) to say we have to leave to survive. Once that decision was made by the Elder it put the process in motion. It also set a process in motion that required a determination as to who must go and who would have a choice. The Elder would determine according to certain criteria which knowledge carriers would join the exodus, but would have no say over those who made other decisions even though it was his own decision that set off the process.
  • What are leadership qualities?
  • Do you think a leader carries a heavy load? Explain.
  • What factors may influence someone’s decision to stay or go on the journey?
Immigrant story:
What indicators show that Frog Mountain is not only a survival story for those who remained but also an immigrant survival story for those who left? Tribal identity, cultural laws, and traditional knowledge would be carried to another land to continue to exist as a tribal group. In the 1990’s the Minister of Indian Affairs Ron Irwin declared, in writing, that the Lakes or Sinixt Peoples “ceased to exist as a band for the purpose of the Indian Act”; however, “it does not…mean that the Sinixt People ceased to exist as a tribal group.” Paul Pryce in her book Keeping the Lakes’ Way described this as a diaspora. Consider the following during discussion:
  • protocols for entering foreign territory (asking permission; making an offering; doing a trade);
  • the concept of homeland and inherent knowledge, traditions, taboos and restrictions;
  • survival of traditions and continuum of practice;
  • separation of loved ones due to times of crisis.
  • Research the rise of environmental refugees on a global scale.
Music and Storytelling:
There are Sinixt protocols around survival and instilling hope. One does not sit around moping or playing the victim when everyone is in the same predicament during troubled times. There is a strong need to have uplifting thoughts, words, behaviours, and deeds during such times. Old people sang their death songs in the story. Songs of ‘faith and survival’ were sung by the Elder. Storytelling probably had a significant place within the realm of uplifting the people to more spiritual or inspirational realms. Storytelling was used for entertainment, for transfer of knowledge, for instilling hope, and to stress the importance of the group dynamic in their efforts to survive.
  • How could the Frog Mountain story be used to help or inspire people?
  • Find examples in the story of the Sinixt protocols used for instilling hope and survival.
  • What differences are there between cultural law and protocol?
Power, Size, and Significance:
Through love and generosity frogs sacrificed themselves to those who were facing starvation in the caves. The actions of the frogs demonstrated that a species normally viewed as insignificant can be capable of great, great things and Frog Mountain now signifies the ever-growing love for the people. Everything is significant and consequential whether it is big or small. Size, class, colour, or where you are positioned in the food chain does not matter. There is significance to every living creature. But we tend to notice the big things unless we have a special relationship with the smaller ones. In other words, we may not always understand the consequences of what happens to small creatures and the impact they have on bigger creatures.
  • Remembrance Day: Veterans Affairs Canada has an excellent resource for teachers on Tales of Animals at War. Several small animals such as a dog, cat, and homing pigeon are portrayed.
  • Research: Plankton is a small plant. Whales feed on plankton. If there is no plankton the whales will die. Find other examples of small beings that have an impact on bigger creatures.
  • What is extinction of a species? How can people help prevent the extinction of a species?
  • What could be the impact of 80% of creatures going extinct?
  • Frogs are an indicator species. What are indicator species?
  • What are the 2-, 4-, and 8-leggeds, winged ones, and finned ones?
Love and Trust:
Frog came to the old man and told him to go to the banks of the river. Frog appears to the Elder in a prophetic way by telling him that everything will be okay if he follows Frog’s directions and advice. While the Elder does not completely understand what that all really means, he has to demonstrate after receiving the message that he and his people are willing to conduct the work as directed. Notice the Elder had faith in the message or prophecy and did not question Frog for additional information. Frog is ultimately a messenger of renewal and a symbol of love and trust. Even if they felt the situation was hopeless, the people gave their word to never give up because they loved, respected, and trusted their leader.
  • How would Elders inspire their people to have enough faith to keep going; or have some level of faith in the prophecy?
  • The Elder did not question Frog. The people did not question the Elder. Why do you think they succumbed to such ‘blind faith’? Give examples of following in blind faith from contemporary times. Debate the pros and cons.
Social and Cultural Responsibility:
There are many examples of responsibility evident in the story.
  • The students could be challenged to give examples relating to:
    • …the Elder (responsible for and to his people, for the delivery and success of the prophecy, setting boundaries, etc);
    • …the people (responsibility to the group, to each other, to the family, to fulfil the promise, etc.);
    • …Frog (responsible for delivering the prophecy).
  • How does a student demonstrate responsibility in different environments? – classroom, school, family, community, government
  • The use of charged language can be extremely disruptive and discourage meaningful communication within a tribal setting. What is a ‘euphemism’ and how can euphemisms be used to foster productive communication?
Protest and Resistance:
In the story the people protested against the Elder’s decision to stay behind. They insisted it was unfair and he couldn’t make them all leave. The people were exercising their right to make their own decisions within certain parameters, i.e. of responsibility for carrying knowledge and for continuum of practice. Everybody holds a certain responsibility and sometimes when you hold a responsibility you forego your authority over yourself in a decision-making process.
  • If the people respected and loved the Elder and leader, why would they protest against his decision? Would this be considered disrespectful? Why or why not?
  • Is this form of protest the same as ‘civil disobedience’? Research the term and the history of civil disobedience.
  • Silence is acquiescence. Silence is complicity. What you do defines who you are.
    Analyze these statements. Older students may be interested in researching people who have made similar comments about silence and complicity, including:
    • Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist considered to be a political prisoner since 1975 whose release has been demanded by many groups including Amnesty International;
    • Albert Einstein;
    • Leonardo da Vinci;
    • Mahatma Ghandi; et al.
Curricular Competency: (developed by the teacher creating the lesson plan in collaboration with the student(s) receiving the knowledge)
Creative Thinking:
Critical Thinking:
Positive Personal & Cultural Identity:
Personal Awareness & Responsibility:
Social Responsibility:


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