Lesson Five: Staying on Your Path
So you have set a path for yourself to achieve a career goal. We begin working towards a job or life that we want. Some careers like in health and sciences are established in middle school and the work begins there. Some are set in college when we declare a major field of study. Some are set after we have experienced work and life and know what we want. And some are set earlier as we know in our heart what we want to do.
Whenever we set our path, we must always remember that it will be hard work to stay on and finish our journey. Elders sometimes say, “Nothing worth doing is easy.”
Sometimes we are taken off the path by an illness or accident, like Karina Walters. Sometimes we change our minds because of new experiences or relationships. And sometimes, someone lures us off the path for their reasons, not respecting our goals and choices.
In his interview, David Lewis shares that he could have been discouraged and even quit because there wasn’t a convenient college degree he could link his plans and interests to. “Part of the problem [getting his doctorate/Ph.D.] was, I was going for a different area of Native studies… I created a whole new area. My two subjects [became] decolonizing anthropology, which was a whole new area. No one had ever done them before. So I was doing stuff I had almost no advice for.”
And Don Motanic shares, “Don’t rush, find your own pace. One of the things that I stopped doing was comparing myself to other students, other professionals. Compare yourself against yourself. How can I make myself a little better tomorrow than I was today? And take… one small step at a time.”
Read the following Native story and answer the questions at the end.
The Bird with the Beautiful Song
(A Native story created by students at Wah-we-lute School, Franks Landing, Washington)
A long time ago, in a village on the Pacific Northwest Coast, there lived a young boy.
One day, this boy was awakened by the song of a bird. The song was beautiful and the boy wanted to learn it, but he could hear the bird was beginning to fly away into the forest. He would have to follow it if he wanted to learn that song.
So he packed some food into a pouch and he went out of the house, going into the woods so he could learn that song. Every time he got close enough to hear the song clearly, the bird would fly further away into the forest. So he kept following the trail that would lead him to the bird.
Deep in the forest, he came to a bend in the trail and sitting there was Bear, eating berries. Bear saw the boy and said, “Little boy, why are you in the woods by yourself?”
The boy explained how he was following the bird with the beautiful song so he might learn the song for himself.
Bear said, “Well you are going the right way. I heard a beautiful bird song going by here just a few minutes ago. But, boy, you need to be careful. Coyote is in the woods today and you know he is a trickster. He plays tricks…”
The boy cut Bear off. “Thank you Bear, but I am in a hurry. I cannot lose that bird. I must keep going. And don’t worry, I know all about Coyote.”
The boy rushed off to follow the bird as it flew further into the forest.
So he went further into the woods, but as before, every time he got close the bird would fly further away.
He came to another bend in the trail and there was Deer and her baby fawn eating leaves from a bush near the path. They saw the boy and asked, “Boy, why are you in the woods by yourself?”
As before, he explained how he was following a bird with a beautiful song and how he wanted to learn that song.
Deer said to the boy, “You are close. We heard a beautiful bird song flying by a few minutes ago. But, boy,” they said, “You must be careful. Coyote is in the woods today, and you know he is a big trouble maker.”
The boy said, “Thank you for your warning, but I am in a big hurry. I need to keep moving so I don’t lose the bird. Thank you, but I have heard all about Coyote.”
And so, he kept following the trail, almost getting to the bird; but as before, the bird flying further away.
Then he came to another bend in the trail, and this time do you know who was sitting right in the middle of the trail? It was Coyote.
Coyote saw the boy and said, “Hey little boy, what are you doing in the woods all alone?”
The boy explained about the bird and its beautiful song he wanted to learn.
Coyote said, “Listen to my beautiful song!” And he howled like a coyote really loud, “AAAA-OOOOOOOO!” Coyote looked at the boy and asked, “What about my song? Don’t you think it is beautiful too?”
The boy said, “It is a good song, Coyote, but I want that bird’s song.”
Coyote said, “Boy, what is in that pouch you are carrying?”
“Some food for my travels,” replied the boy.
“Hmmmm…,” Coyote said. “You know what, little boy? I know where that bird is going. I know where he lives. I can take you there. I know a big shortcut. Follow me and we will get there real fast.”
The boy said, “I don’t know, Coyote. I think I should stay on this trail. I am getting closer.”
Coyote said, “What’s wrong, little boy? Don’t you trust me? I really do know a shortcut. Follow me and we’ll get there really fast. Don’t you want to learn that song? I can help you.”
The boy reluctantly said, in a small voice, “Okay, Coyote. I will go your way.”
So Coyote lead the boy off the trail into the woods. They went through bushes and tall grass. They went across muddy ground and over rocks. It was a very hard path, but Coyote kept yelling, “Hurry up, little boy! We are almost there!”
So the boy kept following Coyote, even though he didn’t know where he was now.
One time, he climbed over an old log and fell into the grass behind it. Sitting there was Rabbit.
Rabbit whispered to the boy, “Little boy, why are you in the woods alone and why are you following Coyote?”
The boy explained his story about the bird with the beautiful song and how Coyote was showing him a shortcut to find the bird.
Rabbit said, “Oh, little boy, you should never trust Coyote! He is a trouble…”
The boy cut Rabbit off. “Thank you, Rabbit, for your advice, but I have to hurry. I must keep up with Coyote or I won’t find the bird.” And he got up and ran after Coyote.
Coyote was starting up a big hill and he stopped and waited for the boy to catch up. The boy was gasping for breath.
Coyote said, “Little boy, you are too slow. I can’t keep waiting for you. I know why you are having such a hard time. It’s that pouch you carry. It’s too heavy. Let me carry it, so you can move faster.”
The boy panted, “No, Coyote. This is all the food I have and it’s not that heavy.”
Coyote said, “Yes, it is! That’s why you are so slow. Give it to me and you’ll see how much easier you can travel.”
So the boy reluctantly gave the pouch to Coyote. Coyote grabbed it and ran up and over the hill yelling, “Hurry up, little boy! We are almost there. I’ll meet you on the other side.”
The boy struggled up the hill through tall grass and thorny bushes. He was bruised and cut all over. When he finally got to the top of the hill, Coyote was nowhere in sight.
The boy called out, “Coyote, where are you? Coyote, I can’t see you! Where are you, Coyote?” He called several times, but there was no answer.
Then the boy realized he would not be seeing Coyote again. He knew he would not find that bird and its beautiful song now; he was very sad.
He slowly went back down the hill the way he came. He followed his way back to the trail where he had met Coyote. He slowly trudged back home.
He hadn’t eaten all day, but he wasn’t hungry for he was too sad. But he knew he had learned an important lesson. Now he really knew about Coyote, and he would never listen to him again.
And that is all.
- In this story, the boy was taken off the path he had identified for himself. How did this happen?
- The boy knew Coyote was a trickster, but he dealt with him anyway. Why didn’t he listen to the warnings of the animals he met? Can you imagine someone advising or warning you and you not listening?
- What should the boy have said to Coyote when he was told about a special shortcut?
- Staying on the original path was frustrating—the bird kept flying away—but is it safe to believe there is a shortcut or an easier way?