"The Story of Niagara " is a story from the national touring production "Water Wonder Tales" (not currently touring). This page is for teachers to use with their classes to extend the learning experience after your school assembly.
A Seneca girl and her Grandfather live in a hut in the woods away from the rest of the tribe, who live in longhouses. The grandfather is so greedy and abusive that the girl runs away. She is rescued and sheltered by the Water Spirit, who has heard about the Grandfather’s greed and the girl’s goodness. The Grandfather becomes so wicked and greedy that he turns into a stone giant. The Water Spirit goes to stop him; they battle until they fall over a cliff, forming Niagara Falls – a reminder to respect nature rather than exploit it.
The Sky Woman (sub-story)
The Water Spirit tells the story of The Sky Woman to the girl. Long ago when the earth was covered with water, people lived in the sky. The wife of the sky king needed a certain medicine that was difficult to get. She fell out of the sky when she tried to get it. The birds set her on the back of a turtle, who told his friends to dive to the bottom of the ocean for soil. The sky woman danced on the soil spreading it out to form what became known as the land of the Seneca.
- Comprehension - understanding
- Glum – not happy
- Greedy- selfishly craves money/wealth
- Long House – dwellings that were up to 200 feet long
- Precipice – a cliff
- Phosphorus- a type of mineral
- Reign/Rain (homonym) - to rule/water that falls from the sky
- Seneca – name for tribe living around the Great Lakes region in what is now New York. Also “the place of the stone”
- Stalactite- a rock formation in a cave that develops from the ceiling
- Stalagmite- a rock formation in a cave that is formed from the ground up.
- Wampum - colored shells and beads strung together to tell a story, also used as money
Was the Grandfather good or bad? Why? (He was greedy and only cared about money. He treated his grandaughter poorly.)
Was the Water Spirit friend or foe? How did he help the girl? (Guided her to the safety of his cave; protected her from her Grandfather; saved her from the snake)
An acrostic is a poem that spells out a word along the left side; each line begins with the letter of that word. Try writing an acrostic poem that spells out the word Niagara and for an added challenge make it about the story.
Nature Myth Writing
The story of Niagara is a nature myth explaining how a certain phenomena came to be. Try writing a nature myth yourself. How about a story about how the rainbow came to be in the sky?
More Nature Myths to Explore
- Coyote and Eagle
- Why The Bat is an Outcast
- How Coyote Stole Fire
- When April Went to Visit March
- Rainbow Crow
You can hear these stories and more on Act!vated Stories Podcast. Check your local library for more folktales from around the world. Look for them in 398.2 and j398.2 section.
Does the Story of Sky Woman remind you of any other tales? (Rapunzel - Also told on A!S Podcast
Do you know anybody who has been to Niagara Falls? Have you been there yourself? Can you describe it to someone who has never been? (Ask some to tell you about it if you have not been.) Learn more about Niagara Falls at your library and on the web.
Measure out 200 feet to see how long a Long House could be.
Draw a picture of all of the people who live in your house. Draw a picture of all of the people in your extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc) and put them in a long house. Discuss the two drawings and the advantages/disadvantages to each situation.
Make wampum beads from clay or play dough and string them together.
Draw a picture illustrating a scene from the story about the Sky Woman.
Dennis plays both the Water Spirit and the Grandfather, at one point there is a battle between both characters. The actors solve this problem by throwing the costumes up in the air, running and grabbing them before they fall to the ground. Try it. Grab a partner and two pieces of cloth – such as 2 T-shirts or 2 towels. Stand about 5 feet apart; decide who is going to pass in front and who is going to pass behind. On the count of 3 throw the cloth straight up into the air, run to the other side and grab your partner’s cloth before it falls to the ground, repeat. When you get good at it try adding in some turns and other fancy maneuvers as you dash back and forth.