Oneida Nation Children’s Story Brings Language Learning to the Utica Zoo


The Utica Zoo recently installed a new story trail with a Oneida language learning book for children.

Set up near the zoo’s main entrance and featuring the book “The Legend of How the Bear Lost Its Tail,” the history walk is a cooperative effort to bring Haudenosaunee culture to life for younger generations.

The History Walk was developed by the Oneida Nation and Colgate University.

The Nation has partnered with Colgate University’s Longyear Museum of Anthropology and the Picker Art Gallery to produce large outdoor reading stations to create a guided storytelling walk, which aims to promote reading and learning. physical activity in young children.

Each page of the book is transformed into a temporary sign that serves as a “stop and read” station to encourage children to complete the story. Along the way, they will learn two Oneida words: Ohkwa:lí̲ (pronounced “oh gwal”), which means bear, and Skʌhnáksʌʼ̲ (pronounced “skuh noks”), which means fox.

“Bringing our stories to younger generations and introducing the Oneida language to the community in an interactive way has been a wonderful experience,” language teacher Chelsea Jocko said in a statement on behalf of the Oneida Indian Nation Language Program. “Area schools and libraries have shared our enthusiasm for producing these books and we are pleased that the Utica Zoo is helping us with our outreach.”

Haudenosaunee legends are passed down from generation to generation and offer life lessons through storytelling.

“The legend of how the bear lost its tail,” for example, teaches children about humility and the pitfalls of boasting. It is part of a series of books for learning and preserving the Oneida language and was produced in collaboration with Madison-Oneida BOCES.

The story walk will be on display until the end of August alongside the zoo’s red fox exhibit. A red fox is one of the main characters in the book.

Families can engage with history and learn about the Utica Zoo’s conservation efforts on the History Walk.

“As a long-time member of [Museum Association of New York], Utica Zoo couldn’t be more excited to partner with the Oneida Indian Nation, Madison-Oneida BOCES and Colgate University,” said Andria Heath, Executive Director of Utica Zoo, in a press release. “The ability to live through words and expand one’s life through reading is so precious and hosting this project to learn more about Oneida culture and heritage is a privilege.”

Ed Harris is the Oneida County reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Ed Harris at [email protected]


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