Last Updated: April 1st, 2019

It was twilight and the fire was set ablaze with juniper pine logs and sun-dried driftwood, as it had been done for generations immemorial. The juniper sap fizzed and popped and sent sparks up into the heavens, like fireflies in late August, whizzing about aimlessly in the night. The orange sun was settling down for the night and ten little boys and girls were settling around the campfire waiting for their Chief.

The Chief soon took his central position, which was a chair of sorts fashioned from the trunk of an old birch tree. He was a frail old man although his six-foot stature still demanded respect and awe. The youngest in attendance even called him Giant Bear. He walked over slowly and sat down with a loud groan.

“Now,” he began, running his palms over his knees in circular motions as he gathered his thoughts. He seemed nervous to begin although he had been recounting the tales of their ancestors for most of his life.

“What story will you tell us tonight, Giant Bear?” shouted one of the youngest, excited and impatient.

“Now, now, Sky” he admonished her, “be patient. You know that stories are not things one should rush through.” He was shaking a scolding finger at her, but with a big grin on his face. In truth, he was delighted with their enthusiasm and he himself could barely wait for these evening story sessions.

“Tonight, I will tell you the story of Wolfmother.” He paused a moment to measure their response.

Chatter broke out among those present and a heightened anticipation rattled from one child to the next. They twisted around asking each other if anyone had ever heard of Wolfmother. Some had heard of her but most of them didn’t know who she was. They were excited to find out and, once silence had finally returned, they sat patiently waiting to hear more.

“Wolfmother was the tribe’s healer many years ago” he continued. “Her life was short, but she made every moment count. And, to this day, her legacy is instrumental in how we interact with our environment,” he said.

He paused again. As he told the story, he was organizing the history so that he could summarize the most important information. They had so much to learn about Wolfmother, he would be negligent if he attempted to tell it all in one night.

“Wolfmother was picking healing herbs from the forest when she heard a shrill cry from the west.” He paused, his eyes intensified as if he could hear the sound from the past, and he shook his head as though to rid himself of a painful memory.

“She hadn’t known it then, but she had heard the cry of a wolf pup. It had walked into a snare and the force of the impact had broken its leg.” He was becoming deeply moved in the recounting of the tale.

“The pup was all white. You all know that white animals are sacred, don’t you?” he asked.

“Yes!” they all cried in unison.

“Wolfmother came running to its aid just as the hunters happened upon it. She was brave and selfless and, would not let them take it away.” He shook his head and smiled a little—amused at her determination. “She even threw herself over the crying pup to stop them from taking it! The hunters eventually gave up arguing with her, thinking the creature would probably die from its injuries. They didn’t believe that she could save its life.

She fashioned a bandage out of herbs she had collected and wrapped it firmly around the wounded leg. The pup’s mother had come back to her pup and they slept near the camp. Every day Wolfmother would apply a fresh bandage until the pup’s leg had fully healed. The mother and her pup stayed close to Wolfmother until eventually one day she told them they could go.

Ever since that day, wolves never again attacked any of the tribe’s dogs or livestock, as they had sometimes done. The tribe took this as a sign that nature was showing its gratitude, and so Aputik, as she was called at birth, was then given the name “Wolfmother.”

“That is why we must love nature, respect it and try to preserve it. We will never know when the life of one plant or creature, will put the planet off balance. Decorate a birdhouse and put nourishing seeds in it, plant a little garden without using chemicals to feed the bees that pollinate our food, keep a small beehive. There are many things you can do to make sure you stay in balance with Mother Nature.” He looked around, making sure they had all understood. When he was satisfied he bid them goodnight. “We will talk more of Wolfmother tomorrow” he said.

As they all slowly left the campfire heading for bed, many were talking, making plans for a little garden of their own. Others were questioning if they would have been brave enough to save the pup. Most decided that Wolfmother was very brave and that it would take someone very special to do what she had done.

by  Tihana Skoric
image: painting of young indian woman with wolf  via Shutterstock