Months? While people want to know the names of months in our language, to really understand you have to get away from the calendar you are familiar with, which was arranged by the Romans and perpetuated today (echoes of the Roman Empire!) Traditionally, the original Ioway calendar (and that of most tribes) was based on the cycles of the moon (month comes from the word "moon", as in "many moons ago"). A month went from the New Moon, through the Full Moon and ended with the dark of the Moon. So how can you tell what cycle the moon is in? By the direction the crescent is pointing. You can look up at the moon and think of the English word "DOC" (what's up doc?) to remember the cycle. The waxing crescent (moon is getting fuller) is the curve in the letter D (like a backwards C). The O is the full moon. The waning crescent (going to the end of the month, getting smaller) is the C.
So what month is this? The moon cycle varies from year to year, as does the solar calendar. That's why for the solar calendar you are familiar with, there is a Leap Year, every 4 years, to make up for the extra days in a solar year. But the moon calendar makes up for it in a different way, by adding a month every few years. Some cultures did that around midsummer and others did it in midwinter. It seems our people did it in midwinter, adding an extra Bear Jumping Month every couple of years, the way the U.S. calendar adds a Leap Year every couple of years. That's the reason for Big Bear Jumping and Little Bear Jumping: The Little Bear Month is the extra month every few years. For now, don't worry too much about it.
So what Ioway month is it now? It is Bi Pesge Etawe (bee-PAY-skeh-EY-tah-way): The Frog's Moon (Moon-Frog-His/Its/Hers) (2016: March 10 - April 7)
Indian New Year starts with the greening of earth we see around us, and the first thunder; this marks the end of storytelling season. Some say the first thunder wakes the frogs from their winter sleep in the mud. When the Frogs begin to sing and thunder comes, this starts new year.
Now that storytelling season is over with, it is time to switch gears to new subjects. I am going to start getting back to studying plants and birds on the Iowa reservation here in Kansas and Nebraska, and will be sharing some of what I learn here, and hope others get into birds and plants too.
Both our traditional culture and science can teach us a lot. While there is a cultural focus on edible and medicinal plants, it's important to get to know as many as possible: trees, brush, flowers, because they all depend on each other as do we on them. And it's fun to watch the birds, not just to learn to identify them, but to learn about their behavior and bird language. We can share what we learn about our birds and plants in the Baxoje Wosgąci: Iowa Tribal Museum and Culture Center group, and think about what exhibits might help us learn about them and how they related, and still relate, to our Ioway culture and life today, keeping both us and our land healthy and alive.