How the Sturgeon-Nosed Canoe Came To Be

How the Sturgeon-Nosed Canoe Came To Be
(time 13:40)
Big Ideas:
Educators are encouraged to focus on three dominant themes throughout their planning and study of the story How the Sturgeon-Nosed Canoe Came To Be. The themes integral to the story are 1) communication, 2) relationship (loyalty), and 3) social responsibility. The following are suggestions and information that will assist educators in meeting their learning objectives for their students.
An introduction to some of the following words and phrases may be needed for younger students prior to, or after, listening to the story: coif, finery, profound, bramble, lodge, sedges and watercress, lashed together, envy, upstream/downstream.
The Sinixt speak a dialect of the Interior Salishan language. Their word for Coyote, Snk’lip, is used in this story with no initial introduction to the meaning of the word.
Social Responsibility:
This story takes place in a village situation. For balance and survival to occur in the community, the members of the village need to commit to helping each other with important tasks, i.e. berry-picking, gathering bark for basket-making or tule mats, medicine gathering, root digging, wood gathering, and so on. It can be said that true beauty lies in how you are of service to your community. There are several instances in the story where characters are, or think they are, being of service.
  • How do Mr. Fox, Mrs. Fox, Mrs. Duck, Mrs. Goose, Sturgeon, and Coyote perform any kind of service in the story?
  • Examine whose ‘service’ is authentic and complies with the true definition of ‘being of service’, namely, engaging without expectations or reciprocation; and whose ‘service’ is self-serving, conditional, transactional, or ego-driven.
  • How does the idea of responsibility or duty relate to being of service? Recall Mrs. Fox felt a responsibility to be helpful around the village.
  • Students could think of ways they are being of service on any level in many different situations. The younger children may be surprised at how much they are already helping or being of service. Consider service to: family, friend, group or team, class, school, community, city, province, country, world. Older students may expand their discussions to include being of service to a cause, a belief, or humanity in general.
Loyalty is important to the stability of a lasting and healthy relationship. The importance of, and loyalty to, family is mentioned in the story. Mr. Fox always wanted a family of his own and is protective of, and loyal to, his wife. He also has a brother, Coyote, whose values at times are at odds with those of Mr. Fox; however, Coyote is truthful about who and how he is so there is no guessing about Coyote’s character. Loyalty includes being truthful about your feelings and your thoughts. Mrs. Duck and Mrs. Goose define the meaning of treachery. Treachery, or behaviour that is not loyal to someone who trusts you, negatively impacts balance in a relationship. You don’t get to relationship without truth. In other words, without truth the relationship is a fallacy, it is only an invention.
  • What are the foundations of a good relationship or friendship with another being, group, etc.? – loyalty, honesty, trust, good listening skills, keeping commitments, integrity, shared values, fidelity, and so on.
  • Does a healthy relationship necessarily have to be reciprocal in some way? Explain.
  • Mrs. Goose and Mrs. Duck claimed to be friends of Mrs. Fox and wanted to help her; however, they define the meaning of treachery. Evaluate this friendship in reference to the story.
  • Discuss/debate whether Coyote was a loyal family member and a good brother to Mr. Fox. Was honesty the best policy? Older students may take into consideration the following statement: “One’s level of integrity is determined by how well one keeps one’s commitments.”
  • More mature students could research codependent relationships, possibly in relation to addiction.
Mrs. Fox had a regular morning routine she followed. It involved personal hygiene and preparing for her day, i.e. going to the creek, speaking to the water like her greatest friend, preening, cutting her nails when needed, brushing her hair.
  • What is a routine and why are routines important? List some that are used or followed by students at home, in class, around the school, riding their bikes on the road, etc.
  • In what ways are routines different from laws and habits?
  • Imagine a conversation you could have with the water that would be a positive start to your day.
Effective communication is achieved by speaking with clarity, asking questions, providing context, and refraining from making assumptions or jumping to conclusions without adequate context. When an issue is not dealt with, it can fester, and mushroom or magnify into more than it really is. Jealousy, for instance, is a powerful feeling that can consume and transform a person as well as alter their character. Several examples of misunderstandings, poor communication, or loaded issues are presented in this story.
  • Each example of misunderstanding or miscommunication in the story could lead to discussions regarding what happened, why it happened, and how better communication could have fostered a different result.
  • Does bullying occur in the story? Review anti-bullying rules and strategies. Include effective communication as a topic for consideration.
  • Mrs. Fox made a choice to ignore Mr. Fox and his odd behaviours. She understood that people do change over time. Mrs. Fox gave him time to come to his senses rather than confront him because she felt she had never given him reason to act crazy. Students could engage in a role-playing activity to demonstrate making good choices and the phrase ‘choose your battles’.
  • List the many different feelings the characters in the story experienced. – jealousy, fear, trust, despair, love, sadness, frustration, happiness, greed, anger, hope, and so on. How were these feelings communicated to the listening audience? Consider whether feelings are one aspect of communication, i.e. if you don’t communicate your feelings, are you really communicating?
Shrines are commonly associated with some religious affiliation, or deity; however, in the story a shrine is built by Sturgeon to honour Mrs. Fox because of his desired connection to her. Sturgeon has kept everything she gave him and placed the gifts at the shrine to Mrs. Fox. In other words, Sturgeon has gathered memorabilia that he, but not necessarily Mrs. Fox, values. He claims the gifts prove Mrs. Fox loves him.
  • What are some of the reasons behind gift-giving? Is giving a gift synonymous with an expression of love for someone?
  • What types of shrines, displays, or collections might exist in your home or community? – trophy and medal cases at a rec centre or in the school, personal sports accomplishments, family photo displays, wall displays i.e. album covers, bulletin board displays in the halls or classrooms at the school, and so on.
  • On a school trip, younger students could gather memorabilia and create remnant or memory booklets (scrapbooks) of their trip, understanding the value of each entry and the memory or reminder it represents.
  • Older students could debate whether museums are valuable as educational resources.
Modes of Transportation
Waterways were important travel routes for the Sinixt People. The mighty Columbia River was equivalent to a super highway for them.
  • List types of transportation the Sinixt used in traditional times and compare with modes used in modern times. Foot, canoe, horse, wagon, car, bicycle, skateboard, pogo stick, boat, inner tube, snowshoes, skates, jet-ski, etc. Explore modes of transportation in their own communities. Graph the modes used to travel to school.
  • There are several features unique to the sturgeon-nosed canoe. Research the sturgeon-nosed canoe as a vital mode of transportation and why this watercraft technology was ideal for the type of waterways within Sinixt traditional territory.
  • Research sturgeon, sturgeon-nosed canoe, and the terms upstream/downstream. Specifically examine why the words ‘wiggle, wiggle, wiggle’ were used to describe traveling upstream (against the current) and not downstream.
Comfort Zones
Each of us has a comfort zone within which we feel comfortable and where things and situations are familiar to us. If you are in your comfort zone, you feel safe, secure, at ease, and in control. Mrs. Fox is very unhappy as her comfort zone is seriously challenged in the story.
  • How do Sturgeon, Mrs. Goose and Mrs. Duck attempt to resolve the problem of Mrs. Fox’s discomfort and dissatisfaction? How does their arrangement to assist Mrs. Fox demonstrate treachery? Is it possible to know or understand another’s wants and needs without effective communication? Explain your answer.
  • If you were going away from home for a while, what items would you bring to satisfy your needs and wants, and identify the difference between the two. – happiness, peacefulness, comfort, security, hygiene, and so on.
  • Not all contributions to one’s comfort zone are visible or obvious. Teach a lesson on noticing what is invisible, for instance the work done for them by people they rarely or never meet such as the school custodian, local police, water purification workers, etc. Students could think of some way to show gratitude for the school custodian and the work he or she does for them.
  • Discuss or debate the topic of happiness. Do things make you happy? Research the meaning of happiness in different cultures. One example from the Aztec culture is suggested here.
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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