Chickadee Makes a Sumix Bow

Chickadee Makes a Sumix Bow
(time 3:57)
Big Ideas:
Educators are encouraged to focus on three dominant themes throughout their planning and study of Chickadee Makes a Sumix Bow. The themes integral to the story are 1) power; 2) problem-solving; and 3) goal-setting. This story is far more complex than it may initially seem to the listener. Many tangents may be followed at various levels for more in-depth study. The following are suggestions and added information that will assist educators in meeting their learning objectives for their students.
Teachers are encouraged to read the summaries and reflections found in the book Not Extinct: Keeping the Sinixt Way that relate to the story. Several important topics and concepts are mentioned, such as:
  • Moralistic questioning;
  • Good vs evil; right vs wrong;
  • Spirit power requiring context, commitment, and effort;
  • Rights and responsibilities;
  • Naivety, gullibility, trust, awareness, and wariness.
Animal Study:
  • A study of the chickadee, its characteristics, habits, and habitat could be taught, researched, or assigned depending on the academic and skill level of the students.
  • A map study of chickadee habitat could be included with specific reference to Sinixt territory.
  • Animals normally recognize neither borders nor boundaries imposed by human beings. They move freely around their habitat. What factors might influence their travel within an ecosystem? Older students could compare this to the rights of the Sinixt and the obstacles they face in moving freely within their traditional territory, particularly from south to north across the international boundary drawn within their territory.
Resolutions such as those often formulated on New Year’s Eve may be made at any time of the year, particularly in the area of setting goals for oneself, the family, the group, the team, and so on. Students may be surprised how many goals they inadvertently set for themselves on a daily basis, i.e. getting to school on time; doing well on a test; scoring a goal for the team; completing an assignment or chore; showing more gratitude; saving up for something special; and so on.
  • Have the students set some meaningful and worthwhile goals, i.e. for the class, the team, or themselves, and so on.
  • Discuss the motivation behind the goals that were set. Does there need to be a ‘reward’ or celebration for achieving goals? Older students could discuss intrinsic versus extrinsic value, i.e. doing something to simply look good, impress others, feel valued, or achieve gang/group membership.
  • How can we be supportive, show leadership, and encourage others to pursue or achieve their goals? This is an ideal role-playing theme. Some examples: Give encouragement to try again if a mistake is made. Congratulate someone for the effort put forth. Give positive comments for a play well done. Lend a helping hand.
In the story Chickadee needed to achieve his goal of attending the Big Council in the Sky. The urgency of achieving his goal is not made clear from the story itself. Was he requested to attend for some reason, had he been ordered to attend by a higher being, or had he simply wanted to attend of his own free will? Not having the context or deeper understanding of the power of the Big Council in the Sky, we are left to our own interpretations of Chickadee’s motivation. The only hint we are given is his need to be in possession of his spirit power while in attendance, hence the need to make his sumix bow. This in itself strongly suggests the Big Council in the Sky is highly respected, revered, and most likely within the spiritual realm. Not every path runs directly from point A to point B, as Chickadee experiences in the story, and Chickadee must strategize in order to overcome the many obstacles he faces in achieving his goal.
  • Discuss the concept of ‘reading between the lines’ and using logic and clues to make more informed assumptions.
  • List the obstacles Chickadee had to overcome to achieve his goal. Try to draw out the following during discussion:
    • Finding Elk’s weak spot: Chickadee had the mammoth task of bringing down a large elk in order to obtain an elk’s rib. Chickadee had to know Elk’s trail and become familiar with Elk’s daily routine of crossing the river each sun. Elk swimming across the river would be an opportune time to take advantage of Elk’s weakness, a time when Elk’s ability to resist or fight back would be severely limited.
    • Developing a trust relationship with Elk: Chickadee had to devise a plan to trick Elk into trusting him. He referred to Elk with the endearing name of ‘My Grandfather’. Elk was tricked into believing Chickadee was trustworthy (as a grandson should be). As a result of Chickadee’s trickery, Elk wanted to be helpful.
    • Killing Elk: Chickadee used his flint knife to kill Elk; however, he had to be brutally dishonest with Elk while crossing the river so Elk would continue to trust him.
    • Outwitting Mother Wolf: Chickadee was able to acquire the rib he needed for the Sumix bow; however, Mother Wolf appeared on the scene looking for food for herself and her cubs. Mother Wolf’s trickery failed as Chickadee outwitted her and kept the elk meat for himself.
    • Not wasting the elk meat: Chickadee roasted and dried the elk meat so there would be no wastage. By choosing a position of power and situating himself on a high ridge, he avoided any competition or confrontation from Mother Wolf and her cubs.
    • Eliminating rivals: Through Mother Wolf’s behaviour, Chickadee was aware of the trickery she was planning. Chickadee’s mission seems of such great importance that he must get rid of all obstacles in his way and sets about to eliminate his rivals once and for all.
  • People encounter obstacles or problems in their lives on a daily basis. Students could share obstacles they have dealt with in their own lives, i.e. crossing a busy street to get to school, finishing chores at home, remembering to attend a planned event such as a birthday party, and so on. Educators could use indoor or outdoor physical education periods to set up obstacle courses. Scavenger hunts can be fun for younger children while older students could engage in group activities such as orienteering with compasses.
Power can be actual or illusory. If something or someone has the illusion or appearance of power that seems impossible to overcome, there is a likelihood no one will try to challenge that power. Alternately, an illusion of power can be a weakness when those holding the illusion believe it so strongly to be true that they are totally unaware of their own vulnerability, believing they cannot be challenged. In the story, Chickadee must make a Sumix bow to take with him into a spiritual realm, the Big Council in the Sky. Sumix is Chickadee’s spirit power.
  • What is power? Begin with a discussion to gain an understanding, from the students’ perspectives, of what power, having power, and being powerful entails.
  • Consider the definition of ‘power’ coming from ‘to be able’. Compile a list of ‘power’ references they’ve heard or are familiar with, i.e. power drinks; power bars; Power Rangers; power trip; power struggle; will power; major powers; power saw; nuclear power; solar power; hydroelectric power; power cord; power of attorney; the powers that be; military power; power hungry; spirit power; girl power; a power grab; power of emotion; power of suggestion; power of civil disobedience (Ghandi); knowledge is power; racism as prejudice with power; math – to the power of…; and so on.
  • Older students could further examine the following ‘power’ references as possible essay topics:
    • Knowledge is power.
    • Racism is defined as prejudice with power. (i.e. prejudice enforced by law, by authorities, by corporations…include systemic racism)
    • Emotions and their power to guide decisions and affect change. (i.e. feeling an emotion and then deciding what to do next)
    • Is power a thing, an idea or a strange agreement, i.e. between the oppressed and the oppressor?
    • The power of suggestion and the use of affirmations.
  • Keeping in mind that predators prey on children who appear to be sad, meek, and mild, it is highly recommended that educators teach students the need to show confidence and security in their body language, as opposed to submissive stances. In physical education there are many exercises that explore and teach power positions. It can be fun to sing a verse from ‘I Won’t Grow Up’ while standing in the Peter Pan stance.
  • Bullying is a prime example of creating the illusion of power. Teach or review the school’s and classroom’s strategies and protocols to deal with bullying. During discussion try to draw out the following:
    • Bullying is a con or power game.
    • There are power positions used by bullies through their body language.
Cultural Law/Survival:
Hunting was, and continues to be, a major event for the Sinixt. The success of a hunt could ultimately determine the survival of a family or even an entire Sinixt community. Taking the life of an animal is taken very seriously, often involving an offering, a prayer, and much gratitude for the animal who gave their life. In traditional times, cultural law dictated that no part of an animal was to be wasted. In the story it was critical for Chickadee to make his bow which required Elk’s rib. Once Chickadee overcame the obstacles to getting the rib of an elk, he had to deal with the meat so it would not be wasted. The story does not cover what was done with the rest of the animal but students could add their thoughts and ideas.
  • List/research the many uses for parts of an animal:
    • food/nourishment/dried (travel lighter);
    • housing;
    • sewing needs;
    • clothing, buttons, sinew;
    • lighting;
    • ceremonial – regalia, drum, rattles, etc.;
    • tools, cutting, scraping, knives, handles;
    • weapons;
    • bags, holders, containers;
    • transportation;
    • provides story material from the hunting venture;
    • art – hides, carving bone/antler;
    • symbol, i.e. many elk teeth = pride as a hunter.
Moral Dilemmas – Good and Evil:
Many moral dilemmas simplify come down to an issue of self-control or self-regulation. Educators can teach self-regulation skills in the classroom setting. There are many free websites available for ideas and support. Introduce students to the Yin – Yang symbol.

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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