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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 We have archived and reconceived the unpublished bookwork as an online experiment while honouring its oral roots and focussing on ecological myth-telling.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 part 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:

waterfall icon 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. Sacred Waterfalls Site in Ottawa – Annotated Resource Guide

beaver hills house plaque icon 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. – Amiskwaciwâskahikan

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 back 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, performing them, building or repairing environments and architectures that embody them as landscape.

None of our texts is 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

Joe Sheridan, original bookwork conception and editing

Penelope Ironstone, Wilderness Storytelling editing

All the Wilderness Storytelling contributors and participants past and to come.

Richard Costa, website text and copy editing

Todd Pruden, graphic design and web development

Julia Hartline, web design

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.