Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life

Stories of indigenous people preserve the “old language” that unites the human and more than human worlds, as Nalungiag, an Innuit woman, explained to ethnologist Knud Rasmussen in the early twentieth century.  This poem by Matthew Bronson with original text adapted from “The Secret Life of Language: by Dan Moonhawk Alford translates that conversation.

In the very earliest time
When both people and animals lived on earth
A person could become an animal if he wanted to
and an animal could become a human being.
Sometimes they were people
and sometimes animals
and there was no difference.
All spoke the same language
That was the time when words were like magic.
The human mind had mysterious powers.
A word spoken by chance might have strange consequences.
It would suddenly come alive
and what people wanted to happen could happen—
all you had to do was say it.
Nobody could explain this:
That’s the way it was.

Words still have magical powers to transform the way we think and feel. We experience this when we explore the world through the tales of the ancient people who lived in intimate proximity with nature.  These stories connect us to a world too easily lost in our modern fast paced lives.

This month, the Children’s Reading Alliance showcases one such story. Lucia Carmona and Carlos Aceves will present How the Raven Got His Crooked Nose, an Alaskan Dena’ina fable on May 21 at 5:30 pm in a Zoom Room. They will be accompanying their storytelling with drum and gourd rattle. Carmona and Aceves, popular local musicians/storytellers, are co-founders of Raices del Saber Xinachtli Community School in Las Cruces. The school’s curriculum is bi-lingual and incorporates Mesoamerican Indigenous culture.

Carmona chose How the Raven Got his Crooked Nose for her presentation because, “Its message is simple and subtle.  The story is meaningful to me because it is a lesson on appearance, which can apply to anyone. Personal appearance is important, and it is good to accept our changing appearance.”


This fable is rich with other lessons as well,” adds Aceves, “What you use in one way may be useful to others for a different purpose.”

After the story the audience is invited to explore the story’s themes through intergenerational conversation.

This is the fourth story in a ten-part series of Talking Stories/Cuentos que hablan, told by local performers, produced by Children’s Reading Alliance (CRA) and sponsored by The Las Cruces Bulletin, New Mexico Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The program is free and open to the public. Subject matter is appropriate for families. Talking Stories/Cuentos que hablan brings quality children’s literature to Dona Ana County. Each month families are invited to Zoom with a different local performing artist to enjoy a story together and participate in discussion with open-ended questions that encourage critical thinking.  Each participating family receives a copy of the book.

For more information contact Jennifer Alvarado at (575) 644-4645 or email



Rorie Measure