Wild Stories is about Wilderness and Myth-telling. We connect places and landscapes with oral histories and stories.
Wild Stories archives a Bookwork: Wilderness Storytelling as a text and chapter summaries.
Wild Stories is a conversation of Voices and Soundings of places and non-human partners we share the world with.
Wild Stories indexes resources, tools, digital and analogue, personal and shared. These links and resources support and amplify oral literacy, ecological myth-telling and placing stories.
Wild Stories is an evolving platform for actions. It links tools, projects and provocations that inspire this work. We bring forward and boost these inspirations by placing them in dialogue together. These engagements and actions span reflection, action and experiments.
Wild Stories is an evolving platform for Actions. It links tools, projects and provocations that inspire this work. We bring forward and boost these inspirations by placing them in dialogue together. These engagements and actions span reflection, action and experiments.
Wild Stories is an Open Access Curriculum for exploration and self-discovery.
In his book Wisdom of the Mythtellers, Sean Kane defines myth-telling as “an affectionate counterpoint to the earth’s voices, with no ambition to direct them or force them to give up their meanings,” while myth expresses the “ideas and emotions of the Earth” (1994), of landscapes and ecosystems. The environment that encircles us is the home of the planet’s essential stories. Myth is open and adapts to the contexts in which it is performed or recounted. If closed and fixed, it fossilizes into a religion, a dogmatic moral system. “A way of obeying instead of a way of seeing” (Kane, Wilderness Storytelling 36). “Memory is in a state of creative incompleteness, which is probably as good a characterization as any of culture, education and oral mythology.” (Kane, Wilderness Storytelling 35).
Myth-telling may be an art of oral history and the performance of stories that establish the origins and development of ecologies that are both physical and ethical. Myth itself doubles the actuality of places, animals and persons with their intellectual and spiritual identities, connecting listeners with a cultural view of the world as landscape rather than a bare bones “what you see is what you get” spaces. Myth thus reminds and inserts its subjects and listeners into the arc of historical narratives of meaning.
Wild Spirits is a project that has had several lives: first as a set of conversations, then as a book manuscript and now as a web publication. We have archived and reconceived the unpublished bookwork as an online experiment while honouring its oral roots and focusing on ecological myth-telling. The voices and materials collected here introduce and explain the importance of stories about place, nature and environments. These stories are parts of oral histories that position people in places as part of the natural world and in longer geological time. They position us as part of larger creation stories that include animals, spirits and other non-human beings – those other significant inhabitants of our world.
This is a project of several places entangled with this online project and its stories. We acknowledge these places:
– below the Canadian Parliament buildings on the Ottawa Ontario banks of the Chaudiere Falls, a waterfall once known as Akikodjiwan, “boiling water flowing through rock,” or Asinabka (bedrock), or as Akikpautik, the creator’s pipe bowl, located on the Kiji Sìbì, or Ottawa River in the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabeg. It must be said that the site is hardly recognizable under a massive dam and hydroelectric station and a new condominium development, all contested by the majority of Algonquin nations.
– at Amiskwacîwâskahikan (ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ) “Beaver Hills House” on the North Saskatchewan river valley that winds through Edmonton, Alberta, in Treaty 6 territory of the Plains and Wood Cree, Saulteaux, Niisitapi (Blackfoot), Métis, and Nakota Sioux.
This project features many voices, many hands, minds and cultures. As a diverse group of creators of this site, we acknowledge our debt to Indigenous cultures and ancestors whose stories we encourage you to look to, while recognizing our own implication in settler-colonial institutions, economies and value systems.
From this position, we ask what is possible?
How can we tell the stories we are part of?
How can stories, myths and even our written histories from the past be brought alive in the present to orient us now and towards a more considered future?
Following the example of other sites, Wild Spirits aims to become a type of “open-access curriculum” based on the original book Wilderness Storytelling, conceived by Joe Sheridan. We aim to open out and unfold the original set of contributions to this book by some of the most distinguished translators, investigators and practitioners of ecological myths. These texts show us the importance of oral literacy for all societies. Like folding a book open all the way backward so that its pages fan out from the spine, we shift the approach to narrative, making it accessible and open at all points.
Rather than simply a web project, we are interested in communicating ways to locate, embed and anchor stories, soundings and other narratives in places. This sometimes involves repeating them, or performing them, building or repairing environments and architectures that embody them as landscape.
None of our texts are definitive, complete or closed. They are selections of the moment, oriented to the purposes at hand and anchored in the places where we stand. They are varied in their geography, culture and background. Incompleteness enriches all the materials by not limiting their implications, the ways they resonate with each other and with you.
This site is shared as a work in progress, as an unfinished open story that its creators have been part of. It is a digital site, which brings together and refracts the places we live in. We invite submissions. What places and stories are you part of?
Rob Shields, Conception and Direction
Todd Pruden, Graphic Design and Web Development
Richard Costa, Text and Editing
Joe Sheridan, Original bookwork conception and editing
Penelope Ironstone, Wilderness Storytelling editing
All the Wilderness Storytelling contributors and participants past and to come.
That which and those who nurture and watch over us.
We acknowledge the funding of the University of Alberta’s Henry Marshall Tory Endowment and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for this project.