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Tomaquag Museum teaches native history

March 7, 2012

Lorén Spears, the director at Tomaquag, holds a quahog shell. Times File Photo.

EXETER – Tomaquag Museum recently announced the completion of a curriculum, geared for middle schools, to give the history and significance behind some of the Narragansett and Niantic tribes’ stories and legends.

The curriculum, available to public, private and even home schools, is based on the film “Places, Memories, Stories and Dreams: the Gifts of Inspiration,” and tells six traditional Native American stories by Paulla Dove Jennings, a nationally known storyteller.

“Each story has its own moral and lesson. The [Schoolhouse Pond: Narragansett John Onion] teaches to not be boastful, but also about the uses of the land and the pond, not only in the past but through today,” said Lorén Spears, the director at Tomaquag.

The traditional story of John Onion takes place during the Indian schoolhouse time period in the middle of winter; John Onion is a great skater but is “so boastful” of his skills that he claims he could outskate the devil. In the end, he hangs up his skates forever, explained Spears.

“It’s a story where someone goes a little too far but there is so much more behind it,” she said, adding that “there is the history of the schoolhouse, the pond and the use of the land, which is what we are focused on in the curriculum.”

The curriculum tells six stories: “Narragansett Indian Church: The Nikkomo Piece,” “The Last Hunt: Woodchuck Inspirations,” “School house Pond: Narragansett John Onion,” “Deep Pond: The Boys Who Over Fish,” “August Meeting Grounds: Fancy Dance” and “Great Swamp: Spirit Voices.” According to Spears’ recollection, both fact and fiction is woven into each of the traditional tales.

“Someone’s interpretation of John Onion may have had a real person in it at some point. Whether it’s a true story or not, I couldn’t tell you,” said Spears. However, they “all incorporate real history within them.”

For more information, pick up a copy of today's Times.


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