Bootup the Wabanaki Whale

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Art by Mi’kmaw artist Alan Syliboy

The cycle of the changing seasons is one of the universal facts about our planet which everyone living on it experiences. Whether it’s a rainy and a dry season or the four seasons from winter to spring, any place experiences shifts in weather that repeat from year to year. Many cultures have come up with stories to explain why the weather isn’t good all year round. The most famous of these is the Greek story of Demeter’s grief at the separation from her daughter Persephone, which causes the crops to die while Persephone dwells with her husband Hades in the Underworld. But today we’re going to look at a story from the other side of the globe where a whale called Bootup helps save the world from an eternal winter.

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Glooskap by unknown artist

The Wabanaki Confederacy is a group of First Nation and Native American peoples who live on the northeast coast of North America, a fact referenced in their name which means “Dawnland People”. The confederacy comprises five nations – Mi’kmaw, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot – who have been allies since at least the early 17th century. Although each nation has its own distinct language and culture, their intertwined history and environment means they have many things in common. Many stories are shared by all the Wabanaki peoples, including those of the culture hero Glooskap. Although his name means “liar”, referring to his sometimes mischievous nature, Glooksap is a benevolent figure in Wabanaki stories. He transformed much of the landscape into the form we know it today and has gone on many adventures to help protect the people he watches over.

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