MOA is temporarily closed until late 2023 for seismic upgrades Learn more →

UBC Home

The Collections


Curatorial + Design

Library + Archives

Collections + Research Stories See all

Collections + Research Stories

Voices of the Canoe—Teacher Resource

Unit 1, Origin Stories and the Canoe

Introduction Activities


Lesson Background

In this lesson, students will explore the tensions between the oral tradition and written history by identifying and questioning their assumptions about each category. Students will conduct online research utilizing the Voices of the Canoe website to gather evidence that either supports or undermines the belief that oral origin stories are historically reliable.

Before beginning research, students should consider the following:

  • What is an oral history?
    • This is a teacher-led brainstorming. Students will write down their thoughts.
  • Consider the following statement: “Oral Histories are not as reliable as written histories.”
    • Why or why not?
    • Students write down their views on the topic and then share them.

The purpose of the activity is for students to identify their own assumptions about the value of oral history and to provide a rationale for their assumption. Teachers should remind students to remain open to and respectful of the viewpoints of their classmates and to identify/figure out where they see ‘grey’ areas.

Scaffolding Activities

  • Questioning (Teacher-led)
    • What do we think of when we hear the word story/or storytelling?
    • e.g. Story as a perspective, story as one person’s truth, story as a true account of events, story as fairy tale or legend, told out loud, fiction
  • What do we think of when we hear the word history?
    • e.g. Truth, factual, accurate from many different people’s accounts, written down, non-fiction

Teacher Explanation

  • These thoughts are assumptions we make because of the way history is taught to us. We need to revise our perspectives.
  • Origin stories are not “myths.”
    • Myths and origin stories are stories are complex.
    • Written history is not superior to verbal/oral history.
    • e.g. Family histories are rarely learned from written history.

Questions to Consider

  • What can you identify as the main issues in these excerpts?
  • Have you heard of oral tradition before?
  • What do you already know about it?
  • What preconceptions do you think people hold about oral tradition?


Students will be responsible for drawing conclusions based on reasoned evidence about the role of the oral tradition in contemporary society.

Links from the Voices of the Canoe website

Multimedia Evidence:

Photo Evidence:

Skidegate Indian Village of the Haida in the Queen Charlotte Islands, July 1878. Courtesy of George M. Dawson/Library and Archives Canada/PA-037756.


Lootaas at Kaay Llnaguay. Courtesy of Damara Jacob-Morris.