Values We Hold and Values Clarification
Learn about values and how they affect our lives.
In this section the student will listen to and learn and examine traditional stories and explain the values that are evident in those stories. They will then examine their own life stories and identify the values that drove their decisions and feelings derived from the experience. The students will also clearly define their own values and clarify them so they can see how those values can derive their lives and the choices they make. Use the link Cultural Value to review the resource that compares native values and dominant society values.
What is a value?
A value is a deep belief we hold about a certain concept and guides our life in accordance with that belief. We learned our most basic values when we were so young we can’t often explain how we got it. Examples could be: girls are smarter than boys; alcohol is important to being an adult; school education is not important; money is the most important thing in my life; etc.
Because we learned these values as a young child, usually before the age of 5 or 6, we can’t really explain why we hold that particular value. We learned it from our families, our communities, and from the culture we grew up in. We don’t make up our values. We were taught them.
How children learn values/how we learned the values we hold:
- First, tell them a story that shares the value you want them to learn. To simply tell them to “be honest” or “work hard” doesn’t always help them understand the meanings of those words. We must tell a story that depicts the value in action.
- Second, show them someone in the family or school or community doing that value. They must link the story to the action and make the connection.
- Next, allow them to practice the value. They must try to be kind or patient or generous or whatever you want them to learn. Remember that it might take several attempts until they get it right. Be patient.
- Finally, when they have successfully accomplished the value and demonstrated it in their actions, you must praise them in front of the family or school or community if you want that value to take hold. They must understand that this value is held by the group and that in meeting the group expectations they are now an important member of the group.
Enjoy reading and listening to the traditional story The Little Girl who was I-I-esh. When you have finished it, review the discussion points at the end of the story.
The Little Girl who was I-I-esh, a Yakima Story
To tell this story I have to use a bad word. I don’t like to use bad words, but it is in the story and must be used. The word is a Sahaptin word from the Yakima area of Washington State. The word is i-i-esh. It means “dumb” or “stupid”. Since we call someone dumb or stupid to hurt their feelings, it is a bad word.
A long time ago there lived a little girl in a Yakima village. She did not listen or pay attention when the grown-ups talked to her or gave her instructions, so she would always do something wrong or break something. Because of this the grown-ups would say, “Oh you don’t listen! You do everything wrong! You are i-i-esh!”
That little girl thought, “Maybe I am i-i-esh. Maybe I can’t learn anything.”
When the children of the village would play that little girl didn’t listen to the rules or pay attention so she would always mess up the game or make her team lose. The other children would say, “You always mess things up! You never do things right! You are i-i-esh!”
The little girl thought “I am i-i-esh. I can’t learn anything.”
So she stopped playing with the other children because they would always laugh at her and make fun of her. She would sit by herself and watch the other children play. She felt very sad.
One day she was so sad she walked into the woods by herself and followed the trails up into the hills. She sat down by a big tree and started to cry.
She cried so loud she woke up the tree. It was an old grandma cedar tree.
The tree said, “Little girl! What are you crying for? You woke me up.”
The little girl said, “Oh, I am so i-i-esh, I can’t learn anything. Everyone laughs at me.”
The grandma tree said, “Oh, little girl. I can teach you something if you want to learn.”
The little girl said, “Yes! I want to learn! What can you teach me?”
The grandma cedar said, “I want you to carefully dig up some of my roots and take off some of my bark. Then take those strips and tear them into thinner strips. Can you do that?”
“Yes.” said the little girl and she did as she was instructed. “What do I do now?”
“Sit by me,” said grandma tree, “and I will show you.”
So the little girl sat by grandma cedar tree and the old tree reached its branches down like hands and guided the little girls hands until she wove a basket. It was a lopsided basket with big holes in it and strands of root and bark hanging from it.
The little girl asked, “Did I make a good basket?”
The cedar tree said. “The only way you will know is to take your basket down the hill to the river and dip it into the water. If it holds water, you have made a good basket.”
The little girl cried, “Do I have to? That’s a long ways to go! Can’t you just tell me if it is a good basket?”
The cedar tree said, “This is how you learn. Take your basket to the river and see if it holds water.”
The little girl sighed loudly as if she wasn’t happy, but she went down to the river and dipped her basket into the water and lifted it out. All the water poured out of those big holes. She went back up to the cedar tree.
She said, “All the water poured out. What do I do now?”
Grandma cedar tree said, “What you have to do is take it apart and do it again.”
The little girl cried out, “Do I have to? I already did it once and I know…”
Grandma tree interrupted her. “This is how you learn. Take it apart and weave it again.”
The little girl sighed her unhappy sigh again and took her basket apart and wove it again. This time it wasn’t so lopsided, there were only a few strands of bark and root hanging from it and she could only see a few small holes as she held it to the light.
“Did I make a good basket now?” she asked.
Again grandma cedar tree said, “The only way you will know is to take it down to the river, dip it into the water, lift it out and see if it holds water. If it holds water you have made a good basket.”
“Do I have to!?” cried the little girl. “I already did that before! It is a long ways…”
Grandma tree stopped her. “This is how you learn. You must take it to the river and see if it holds water.”
The little girl groaned even more noisily, but she went down the hill to the river. She dipped her basket into the water and pulled it out. It was holding water, but she could see water slowly leaking out of those little holes. She rushed back up the hill, but by the time she got to grandma cedar all the water had leaked out.
“Well, it was holding water, but it leaked out real slow. What do I do now?” asked the little girl.
“You must take it apart and weave it again.” said grandma cedar tree.
“Do I have to?!” cried the little girl. “I’ve already done that twice and my fingers are getting sore!”
Grandma tree said, “This is how you learn. You must do it again.”
The little girl made an angry face, but she took her basket apart and wove it again. This time the basket was not lopsided at all. This time there were no strands of bark and root hanging from it. And this time as she held it to the light, she could see no holes.
“Did I make a good basket now?” she asked.
Grandma tree said in a soft voice, “The only way you will know is to take it down to the river and see if it holds water. If it holds water, you have made a good basket.”
The little girl slumped her shoulders. ? She was very tired. “I can’t do it. I have already gone up and down the hill all day.”
“This is how you learn.” said grandma tree. “You must take it to the river and see if it holds water. Then you will know if you have made a good basket.”
“Do I have to?” whimpered the little girl. “I’m too tired…”
Grandma cedar said, “This is how you will know. Take your basket to the river and see if it holds water.”
The little girl trudged down the hill to the river. She put it in the water and lifted it out. And guess what?
It held water.
The little girl rushed back up the hill to grandma cedar tree. “Look!” she cried. “It holds water. I did it!”
Grandma cedar tree said, “You did it, little girl! You made a wonderful basket. You made a very good basket.”
The little girl poured the water around the roots of the tree as a way of saying thank you. She looked at her basket very closely. She was very proud of her basket. She had made it herself. But she noticed something. Her basket did not have any designs on it. It was naked! She knew she needed designs for her basket, but she did not know any designs. She could not think of any designs because she was so i-i-esh! And because of this she started to cry loudly.
“What is the matter now, little girl?” asked Grandma Tree.
“Oh, I need designs for my basket!” said the girl. “But I don’t know any designs. I can’t think of any designs because I am i-i-esh! I don’t know anything.”
“Little girl, it is very simple.” said Grandma Cedar. “All you have to do is take your basket up into the mountains. If you walk around and keep your eyes open, a design will give itself to you.”
The little girl looked towards the mountains that were so far away. “Do I have to?” she asked. “That is too far! I don’t want to go…”
But Grandma Cedar stopped her. “This is how you will find designs for your basket. You must go up into the mountains.”
The little girl shrugged her shoulders and sighed very loudly. But she carried her basket up into the mountains.
When she got to the mountains she walked around keeping her eyes open as she was told to do. But after a while she thought, “I can’t find any designs. No design will give itself to me because I am so i-i-esh.” And again she started to cry. She cried so loud she woke up the mountain.
The mountain said, “What are you crying so loud for little girl? You cried so loud you woke me up.”
“I am looking for designs for my basket, like cedar tree told me, but I can’t find any. I don’t know anything because I am so i-i-esh!”
“Little girl, look at me,” said the mountain. “Can you see that I am a design?”
“Yes, you look like a big triangle.” She said.
“You can use me for the bottom of your basket.” said the mountain. And so the girl wove the mountain design that looks like a triangle with steps going up the sides, onto her basket. She thanked the mountain and kept walking because she needed another design for the rim of her basket.
She kept walking around looking for another design, but soon she thought, “I can’t find another design, no design will give itself to me because I am so i-i-esh! I don’t know anything. And she started to cry loudly again.
This time she cried so loudly she woke up a rattlesnake. The rattlesnake came slithering from under the rocks and said, “Little girl, what are you crying so loudly for? You woke me up.”
“I am looking for another design for my basket.” She said. “The mountain gave me this one, but I need another for the rim of my basket. I have been looking, but no design will give itself to me because I’m so i-i-esh. I don’t know anything!”
The snake said, “little girl, look at me. Can you see a design on my back?”
“Why, yes.” she said. “I see a line of diamonds all hooked together.”
“You can use that for the rim of your basket.” said the rattlesnake. So she wove the line of diamonds onto the rim of her basket.
She thanked the snake and went back down the mountain. She went by the cedar tree and down to her village. When she entered the village the people could see she was carrying something. They gathered around her.
“Little girl,” they asked, “What are you carrying?”
“A basket.” she said.
“Where did you get a basket?” they asked.
“I made it.” she replied.
“Who showed you how to make it?” they asked.
“Cedar tree showed me how to make it out of bark and roots.” she said.
“Where did you get those designs on the basket?” they asked.
“Mountain gave me this one and rattlesnake gave me this one.” she pointed out to them.
“Little girl, can you teach us how to make a basket like that?” they asked.
“Yes I can.” She said.
“Little girl, can you teach us how to put designs on our baskets like those?” the people asked.
She said, “Yes, I can.”
So the little girl taught her people how to make the cedar coil basket out of cedar bark and roots. And she showed them how to put designs on their baskets like the mountain design and the rattlesnake design.
And do you think the people called her i-i-esh anymore?
Story Analysis: Discovering the Story
After listening to the whole story, share and discuss your thoughts on the following:
- Why did the little girl believe she could not learn?
- Did this message come from her community?
- What values/lessons was the Grandmother Cedar Tree trying to teach the girl?
- How did the Tree teach the values/lessons?
- How did the little girl overcome her belief that she could not learn?
- Was this an example of the Hero’s Journey? Why or why not?