Stories from Bangan Forest for Families

A collection of stories for all ages from Bangan Forest.

I had about 9 of them published here, just to whet your appetite. There are 27 stories in total, I think… I have removed the stories from this website for now b/c I’m in the process of putting them into other formats- e books and a printed softcover.

It’s a crazy process. Since when do you find a writer, marketer/publicist and IT specialist in one body? Certainly not this body.

So I joined a writers’ group and I’m getting some support. First bit of major news to me is that my website content is copyrighted but not defensible in court… so I will do what I did in the old days- put a printed copy of the manuscript in a manila envelop and mail it to myself. Dated and stamped, unopened, it is proof that my work belongs to me.

For now, I leave you this piece (not really a story, just a starting place). The Ojibwe words’ meanings are revealed in the English words nearby. (For example, Bangan means ‘It is peaceful here’):

Introduction to Bangan Forest

It is peaceful here in Bangan Forest. It has had many names, but Bangan Forest has always been right here. Forest of Maple, Oak, Aspen, Birch, Pine, Spruce and Cedar has always lived here at Northeast’s place, this place of four seasons and abundant water. Some trees living here today, famously Black Gum and Oaky Dokey, are over 400 years old. Can you imagine?  Oaky Dokey has seen more than 5,000 full moons.

Of course, trees cannot move and although River changes constantly, he too has always been here. River is fed by spring streams from Mountain. Mountain is Mother Earth herself, and she is called Bangan too because it is peaceful there, in that place, too.

And so you see, Bangan Forest and Bangan Mountain are sisters, their fingers intertwined with River and streams and paths. Animals of all sizes make paths: well-used paths through woods, tiny paths under grass. So many pathways to know: paths that lead to meadows full of the flowering plants that rabbits and deer adore; paths that lead to streams full of precious stones; paths to animal dens and hidden storage; paths to teaching places and ceremonial places; paths to other paths.

The most important path is Mnaadendmowin, the path of respect. Animals these days call it Widest Path. It runs right through Bangan Forest, joining River and Danger Road. Widest Path provides 50 miles of peaceful passage for all animals- mice and moose, fishers and coyotes alike.

In spite of Forest’s many paths, River is the main thoroughfare in Bangan. His true name is Debwewin. Large communities of fish and turtles, frogs and rocks live in Debwewin River. Current is strong and always moving around. Sand bars and lily pads, fallen trees and spiders’ webs, dragonflies and rats’ rafts… oh, it is a beautiful place of constant change… Spring’s floods… Winter’s ice.

Debwewin River can be dangerous because of Current’s strength, but he is always a better choice for travel than Danger Road. River can heal too. Debwewin forces us to look at our own selves- to see our face reflected in water and know truth. Councillor Crow has been known to take wrongdoers to Shoreline and force them to look at Debwewin, the truth of who they are. This is where wrongdoers learn that they are not bad; they are broken. Debwewin can do more: he can free burdens, forgive, clean.

You will find otters at Debwewin River’s west end. One thousand otters, all involved in the operation of Wild Waterslide World, where, for free, you can spend the day sliding down some of the craziest slides on Mother Earth. One is half a mile long!

You might be surprised, but Bangan Forest is a place of high fashion. Bowties are in vogue now; I saw several squirrels sporting bright bowties just yesterday: yellow on a black squirrel, turquoise on a grey squirrel. Hats are popular, all kinds of hats. Females of all species are into those tight stretchy skirts these days. Deer Darling wears her stretchy black skirt with loose leggings that fall around her delicate ankles. Mr. Fox’s daughter wears her tight black skirt with fishnet tights on all four legs- she’s a bit of a tramp. She totters on around two-inch heels too, but as everyone knows, foxes are tolerant parents.

Not all animals degrade themselves by wearing accessories and clothes that originated with needy materialistic humans. Wolf is too dignified to wear anything but his own black fur coat; it’s perfect- breathable and thick. It’s just the small-brained who are into human clothes: squirrels, mice, rabbits… youth especially- well, youth of any species, truth be told.

Fashion interest is a natural consequence of immigrants coming here to live, especially the monkeys. As well, of course, Town is a growing influence as more of Forest’s youth go to Town to seek their fortune. They invariably come home with a human-made velvet cape or lace dress or winter parka. So far, fashion trends continue to influence Bangan Forest’s animals despite the obvious irony of baby otters wearing bathing suits and sleeping bears wearing Eddie Bauer winter parkas.

Meadows are throughout Bangan- up Mountain’s sides and dotted throughout Forest. Butterflies and flutterbys by the millions live here. Their names are always LuLu, LoLo, LeeLee or something along those lines. They stir happiness by flapping their wings, so you can imagine troops of them spreading happiness all over fields of sweetgrass and down Forest’s paths.

This place is rich with food and comfort and medicines too. Willow heals headaches and Slippery Elm soothes sick tummies. Coltsfoot stops coughs. Medicines grow right where they will be needed. Jewelweed grows near Poison Ivy. If you touch Poison Ivy by mistake, Jewelweed is right there to help- you can wash your hands with her, and you’ll have no itching or pain.

If you do get sick or hurt, your best bet is to try and find Snake. Snake is a healer, albeit a somewhat reluctant healer. The animals call her Nanaandawi which means healer or doctor.

I can’t divulge the exact location of Snake’s Clinic. First, you have to find Favourite Stone and then convince Nanaandawi to take you to her clinic. Favourite Stone is at the end of Snake’s Trail, which is off Elk’s Path, which is off Widest Path. It isn’t easy to find Snake’s Trail, at least not the first time, and Nanaandawi likes it that way. Animals are always bothering her, asking her to heal them when Nanaandawi thinks that they should have just taken care of themselves in the first place- not gotten into that fight, nor eaten that toxic plant, nor run away from home at a young age… a million troubles these animals get themselves into every day.

Nanaandawi is worth the search. Today she is on Favourite Stone- flat, grey, reliable, with a bit of an overhang that Nanaandawi slides under when she wants to hide or cool down. Sun has been warming her on Favourite Stone for hours. The red diamonds on Nanaandawi’s back have deepened in colour until they glitter in the heat. Nanaandawi is most powerful when her diamonds glitter like this. Today they are shining like poison berries.

In spite of her reluctance to work, Nanaandawi is the sacred feminine. Truly, she is some powerful magic, but she’d rather spend her hours with Favourite Stone, out of earshot of her clinic, making love with Sun, soaking him up. You know, she’s an odd choice for a healer; snakes are basically hedonists, aren’t they? And a bit on the lazy side. Manoo, let her be, such is life.

It is peaceful here in Bangan Forest, and it is peaceful too on Bangan Mountain. Nature is whatever she feels like. In Bangan Forest, it’s not unusual to find rabbits sleeping with squirrels. I mean, it’s pretty relaxed here, even when it comes to marriage. Old Fox married Old Skunk 6 years ago, and he hasn’t eaten her yet. Down at Main Meadow, you’ll find some lesbian turtles and whole community of gay mice and moles. Frog is Two-Spirit. All of Bangan Forest’s animals are respected for being their own true selves.

It’s getting crowded. More and more animals end up here because they’ve been bullied out of their first-choice homes. Sometimes the bullies look like development companies or banks; sometimes the bullies talk about greener pastures or repatriation. In the end, all bullies look like the bottom of a foot… and a new home must be found.

You know how it goes. When a place gets crowded, it’s harder to find a job. Sometimes animals fight over dens and tree-holes. Sometimes food is harder to find- especially when Winter comes to stay.

Of course, and we can’t ignore it, one of the hard truths in this life is that we all have to eat. And sometimes we eat each other. And so, Forest is about fear sometimes and aggression too. Owls eat mice. Moles eat worms. Coyotes eat rabbits. Beaver and Porcupine strip bark right off trees. Rabbits nibble on tender grass all day long. Caterpillars eat Milkweed’s leaves. Squirrels eat flower faces as soon as they come out of the ground!

It sounds barbaric, doesn’t it, all this eating, but here is another truth. When a plant has grown, sometimes even before she is grown, she gives herself freely to her purpose. Maybe her purpose is to nourish another. Maybe her purpose is to burn after death and warm another. Maybe her purpose is to cheer another. And so when this purpose is achieved- this bringing of nourishment or warmth or comfort- Plant is grateful to be of use and gladly gives her life.

Animals who are eaten are similar. Their will is to live; they will fight to the end. However, in the end, it is better for that animal to nourish another than to be left to rot. There is a difference between an animal who is killed under the wheels of a car and an animal who is eaten completely and gratefully- the way Wolf eats calves of Elk and Moose.

That’s life- it’s full of hard truths. For one: Everyone’s gotta eat. Another hard truth is that animals are envious sometimes. This can lead to stealing. Magpie and Bumblebee rob other animals’ food stores. Fox and Fisher steal eggs from nests. Coyote will take another’s supper. Raccoon will steal the shoes on your feet and Crow will take the rings off your fingers, not to eat, mind you, but just because they’re so pretty.

When Bangan Forest’s animals stole and murdered in the past, they sometimes did those things unnecessarily. It was said that this lack of restraint was harming the community, and so it came to pass that the ancestors – the first animals – made some rules to help everyone get along.

Seven animals were elected to enforce seven teachings. These seven animals became known as the Council of Seven or sometimes- Council of Bangan Forest. And so it came to pass that Wolf, Turtle, Beaver, Bear, Buffalo, Crow and Eagle came together to enforce the laws of Bangan Forest. Surely you already know the laws for they are universal: Humility, Truth, Wisdom, Courage, Respect, Honesty and Love.

The Council of Seven is busy with rights. The right to be treated fairly, the right to be clean, the right to live and the right to die. Everyone is born with rights. Council cares about all of them: the rights of those who cannot move such as trees and rocks, the rights of beings who move such as animals and fish; and the rights of Mother Earth and Father Sky.

The Council of Seven is busy with wrongs. When trees and plants argue, when animals fight, Council can help sort out the problem. Often, it is a territorial issue. Sometimes it’s very serious, like dishonouring the harvest or littering or animal trafficking, but usually disputes are about “empty” dens and theft.

Raccoons are constantly before Council and so is Crow’s whole family; thieving is a way of life for some species. Squirrels have a million minor disputes that Council is always throwing out. Councillor Beaver threatened to lock a whole bunch of them in Hollow Birch until they learned to listen to each other. Skunks tend to offend, and buffalos tend to break things that don’t belong to them. Owl and Crow do not get along. Ever. One time, Cruel Cricket read LayLay’s diary, and she was so upset that she brought her right to privacy before Council.

Here in Bangan, Council of Seven oversees rights and wrongs. Border Bears patrol the boundaries and wolves are on guard all night. The widest path- Mnaadendmowin- is safe passage where all are respected. River is clean, streams are plentiful, and soil is nourishing. It is peaceful here in Bangan.

Many animals live here in Bangan Forest. They are regular creatures like you and I. They fall in love and make mistakes; they run away from home and make mistakes. Just like you and I, the animals of Bangan Forest make mistakes all the time: Cougar loses his daughter, Mousie trusts Yowl, Dozy kidnaps Fawnish, Cubby gets addicted to sugar. Wonderful things happen here too, of course: Mr. Fisher chooses love, Turtle chooses love, LayLay chooses love.

I will tell you these stories, the stories of Bangan Forest, but you must listen carefully. You must listen with your heart because the stories of Bangan Forest are true. And you must listen with your head because the stories of Bangan Forest are tricky.

Let’s go together, now. You definitely need boots. Grab the coolest hat you own. Let us start in Little Clearing where Raccoon and Pond play, and then let’s go to Bangan Mountain where streams are born and life begins. Take my hand now, so you don’t get lost.

Okay, let’s get started; aambey, maj ta da.

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