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How the Birch Tree Got It's Burns
an Ojibwe legend retold
by Aurora Conley

The Ojibwe people always had stories to tell that had a moral. A main character who was always used was Waynaboozhoo. But it is told that you cannot tell a Waynaboozhoo story in the spring, summer, or fall, only when there is snow on the ground or it is said that a frog will be in your bed. You can put down cedar and ask to tell the story and nothing will happen to you or your bed. This is what I am told. Now this is the story about how the birch bark got its burns. Often stories have different morals or different explanations so this one may be somewhat different from others that you have heard.

It was wintertime and Waynaboozhoo's grandmother called him to her. "Waynaboozhoo, omaa bi izhaan!" she called. "Come here. It is cold and we have no fire for warmth or to cook and prepare our food. I ask of you to go to find the fire, ishkodence, that Thunderbird has in the west."

"Grandmother," Waynaboozhoo replied. "I will go and look for the great ishkodence for you." He disguised himself as a waboos, a little rabbit, and headed off to the west looking for the fire.

When Waynaboozhoo finally reached Thunderbird's home, he asked, "Please share the warmth inside your home. I am cold and lost. I will only stay a little while, for I must be on my way."

The Thunderbird agreed and allowed Waynaboozhoo to enter his home. Inside, Waynaboozhoo saw the fire and waited until Thunderbird looked away. Then, Waynaboozhoo quickly rolled in the fire and took off running toward his home with the fire on his back!

Thunderbird flew behind Waynaboozhoo throwing lightning flashes at him! Waynaboozhoo grew tired and yelled for someone to help him. "Widoka! Widoka washin! Help me!" he cried.

Then omaaî mitig, the birch tree, spoke. "Come, hide beside me my brother. I will protect you." The little waboos hid beneath the tree while Thunderbird flashed and thundered, angry that Waynaboozhoo had stolen the fire. The lightning bolts missed Waynaboozhoo every time but they hit omaaî mitig. Dark burn marks scarred the white bark of the tree. That is why the birch tree now has burn marks on its bark.


How the Birch Tree Got It's Burns
Word Problems

Join: Result Unknown
When Waynaboozhoo returned home with the fire, his grandmother made ___ pieces of frybread.
Then she made ___ more pieces. How much frybread did Grandmother make?
(5, 4) (13, 15) (24, 37)

Separate: Result Unknown
Grandmother made ___ pieces of frybread and Waynaboozhoo ate ___ pieces. How many pieces of frybread were left?
(10, 6) (19, 7) (35, 16)

Part Part Whole: Whole Unknown
There are ___ birch trees and ___ maple trees. How many trees are there altogether?
(4, 5) (23, 24) (32, 29)

Compare: Difference Unknown
There are ___ maple trees and ___ birch trees. How many more maple trees than
birch trees are there?
(9, 6) (17, 12) (33, 26)

Grandmother put frybread into ___ baskets. She put ___ pieces in each basket.
How many pieces of frybread did Grandmother put in the baskets altogether?
(3, 5) (4, 6) (12, 7)

Measurement Division
Waynaboozhoo gave berries to ___ little waboos (rabbits). Each rabbit got the same
number of berries. Altogether he gave ___ berries to the rabbits. How many berries did
each rabbit get?
(4, 8) (6, 18) (4, 36)

Partitive Division
Grandmother put frybread into ___ baskets. She put the same number of pieces in each basket. How many pieces of frybread did she put in each basket?
(9, 3) (25, 5) (96, 12)

Join: Change Unknown
In the morning Waynaboozhoo gathered ___ twigs for Grandmother's cooking fire. In the afternoon he gathered more twigs. By late afternoon he had gathered ___ twigs. How many twigs did Waynaboozho gather in the afternoon?
(6, 13) (14, 28) (34, 62)

Separate: Change Unknown
Thunderbird had ___ pieces of wood. He burned some in his fire. Then he had ___ pieces of wood left.
How many pieces of wood did Thunderbird burn in his fire?
(7, 4) (17, 5) (22, 14)

Part Part Whole: Part Unknown
There were ___ birds sitting in a birch tree. ___ were chickadees and the rest were pine finches.
How many pine finches were in the birch tree?
(12, 7) (29, 17) (22, 18)

Compare: Referent Unknown
Waynaboozhoo and Grandmother gathered twigs for the fire. Waynaboozhoo gathered ___twigs. He gathered ___more than Grandmother. How many twigs did Grandmother gather?
(12, 7) (24, 12) (36, 19)

Two-Step Problem
A young birch tree had ___ branches. By autumn it had ___ more branches. Each branch had ___ twigs sprouting. How many twigs were on the birch tree?
(4, 4, 3) (5, 5, 10) (12, 14, 20)