The Snow Snake Game, by Ernest P. Smith (Seneca, 19071975). Tonawanda Reservation, New York. Indian Arts and Crafts Board Headquarters Collection, Department of the Interior, at the National Museum of the American Indian. 26/2224

Published December 21, 2017

WASHINGTON In the Northern Hemisphere, December 21 will be the years day of least sunlight, when the sun takes its lowest, shortest path across the sky. North of the Arctic Circle, it will be the midpoint of the period of darkness, when even twilight doesnt reach the horizon. As we did before the solar eclipse in August, this December we asked our Native friends to share traditions theyve heard about the winter solstice. Their answers highlight winter as a time for storytelling.

Ojibwe (Minnesota Chippewa Tribe): This description of winter in many Native communities was prepared by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation/Lessons of Our Land as background for teachers:

Like many events in American Indian culture there is a proper time and place for all activities. Traditional storytelling is reserved for the winter months for many tribes. This was a practical choice given the fact that during the other seasons, people were busy growing, gathering, and hunting food. It was in the winter, with the long dark evenings, the snow and wind blowing outside, that telling stories was a way to entertain and teach the children. Another reason is that many traditional stories contain animal characters. To be respectful, people waited until the winter when animals hibernate or become less active so they cannot hear themselves being talked about.

To have a storyteller tell you a story is like receiving a gift. To be respectful, a gift of tobacco is offered to the storyteller before the story begins. The storyteller will often take the tobacco outside and place it on the earth a......