Aug 122017

Legend of the Grouse Who Made Canoes for All the Birds

This is a blog I wrote on my kid’s webpage

I took the bare strands of the story and adapted it, hopefully, with meaning for kids.  Adults can learn from it, too.  Please pass on my link to children or adults with children.  Thanks.  I write under Pauline Gallagher for the kids site.

This is a blog I wrote on my kid’s webpage.

I live in the Province of Ontario, Canada.  About an hour’s drive by car is an enormous wilderness of lakes, rocks and forests.  People love to swim, canoe and camp in its park.   It is called Algonquin Park and is named after the Algonquin Indians or native people.

An Algonquin chief of long ago


People  in most countries of the world have legends.  These are stories that have a meaning or they are meant to inspire young people.  The following legend is about a grouse that build canoes for all the other birds.  We know that birds don’t build canoes, but we can learn from the following story.  It was told by Chiefs or Wise Persons to young Indian boys and girls.  See if you can get the message from the legend.

Ontario is a very large province in Ontario. Ottawa, the capital is in Ontario. The biggest city in Ontario is Toronto

The Grouse Makes Canoes.

The partridge has a long tail, but this is about the two grouses in the picture

The legend tells of a grouse that built great canoes for all the birds, but a bad one for himself?  Why would he do that?  Let’s find out.  A young Indian boy or girl would know the sound when  grouse beats (pecks) or stomps on a hollow log.  It is called drumming and that is the sound of an adult Indian making a canoe.  The Algonquins called the grouse “Mitchihess.”  And the story happens in N’karnayoo,that means “long ago” or in the old times.

Long ago, Mitchihess (Mitch-ee-hess) was the grouse that build canoes for other birds.  Maybe birds did not fly in those days.  Maybe baby-birds that could not fly were put in canoes.  Who knows?   Anyway, all the birds met with Mitchihess to receive their canoes.

The grouse

Kich-ee-pla-gon, the Eagle had a shell canoe and he paddled off, using the ends of his wings  as paddles.  Next came, Ko-ko-kas, the Owl and then all the other birds and they proudly paddled their canoes with their wings.  Even, the tiniest bird,  A-la-Mus-sit, the Humming Bird, had the tinest canoe and the birds were so happy for it.

The Fish-Hawk Watches the Boats


Now, Ish-meg-wess, the Fish-Hawk seemed to be the only flying bird in the area and he screeched out in joy, “Ak-wed-en Sko-u-je” which is the Algonquin language for  “A canoe is coming.”  In fact, he saw a squadron (a group) of canoes heading out to sea.

The Fish-Hawk was surprised to find that Michihess the grouse had not built a boat for himself.  He asked the partridge questions.  “Why are you not making one for yourself, Michihess ?  The grouse had not wished to do this, but decided he would build himself a boat.

“I’ll Build the Greatest Boat,” said the Grouse called Mitchihess

Mitchihess worked away for days.  He wanted his boat to be better than all the boats he had made for the other birds.  The news spread quickly and all the birds returned to behold (see) Partridge’s dream and spectacular boat.  Now, Mitchihess was good at building boats but not really good at thinking.  He decided that if a boat with two ends meant that it could go in two directions, then a boat that was round could go in ALL directions.   The birds saw a canoe that was built like a round nest.  The birds decided that partridge was clever and they wished their boats were like the one he owned.

Oh, No – It Won’t Go!

Now, Mitchihess looked around and saw the admiring birds.  He was so proud that he puffed up his feathers and walked proudly towards his round canoe.  He used his wings as paddles, but NOTHING happened.

He tried harder and the birds watched him go around in CIRCLES.

I’m Running Away to Hide

Now, the proud Mitchihess let his puffed up feather droop (fall down).

He was embarrassed.   He did not wait for any bird to laugh or point their wings towards his round canoe.   He rushed away on his legs and headed for the thick and dark bushes.  Most of the birds were sorry for him.  He had made a mistake.  All the birds had made mistakes, but they had been able to forgive themselves. They wanted to tell this to Mitchihess.  Owl said,


“I would say to him, forget your mistake with the round canoe.  Look instead at the wonderful canoes you made for others.”


The Eagle said, “His pride has made him run away from friends who love him.  He should have stayed and said, “Yes, I made a mistake. We all make mistakes.”

My Thoughts on the Legend.

I think we learned not to take our mistakes too seriously.  We all make mistakes.  We need to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes.  We learn not to make the same mistakes again.

grouse hide in grasses and bushes

I think Mitchihess and all his later generations of grouses have forgiven themselves and are happy to live in the dark bushes and by rivers.  They are not a fast flying bird and hiding now saves them from hunters.  So, everything has turned out well for the grouses.

(Sometimes the word ‘grouse’ is confused with the word ‘partridge’)  They are two different species of bird.

Aug 122017

SYDNEY, Australia — IT was 2 a.m., just a few days before Christmas, in a remote part of Afghanistan. Eight hours into a 16-hour shift, Ryan, a 23-year-old American naval sailor, was standing tense and alert, watching the footage of soldiers undertaking a nearby mission on a screen in front of him.

Suddenly, a hand clapped onto his back. Wheeling around to look at the face of his senior officer, Ryan knew the moment he had feared had come: His superiors had found out that his enlisted paperwork described him as female. Within three hours, he was on a plane.

Ryan, who is now stationed on a base in the United States awaiting a potential discharge, recently described that day to me. Ryan is the name his mother would have given him if he had been identified as male at birth. He does not want to reveal his real name because his case is being processed by the military.

While the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011 meant gays and lesbians could serve openly in the American military, transgender people still cannot, because the military defines gender nonconformity as a psychological disorder. So transgender soldiers serve in silence, facing dismissal if exposed.

This isn’t the case in other countries. At least 12 now officially allow transgender individuals to serve openly in their defense forces. Britain has allowed transgender people to serve openly since 1999, and Australia since 2010

The flags of these countries had hung above Ryan’s control station in Afghanistan. “I wear an American uniform and I represent a country supposedly defined by liberty and equality,” he told me. But “my allies are welcome to serve in a way that has most certainly just cost me my livelihood. If these countries’ soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines can serve openly and authentically as transgender women and men, why can’t I?”

Nine percent of transgender people who have served in the American military report being discharged because of being transgender or gender nonconforming. Almost all of the rest stay quiet for fear of harassment or abuse.

A Harvard study published last year found that most transgender military personnel in America are white, educated and middle-aged. And most eventually transitioned from male to female. It also found that 20 percent of transgender people had served in the military — double the rate of the general population. (There is a theory that many seek “hypermasculine” experiences to suppress their desire to be female.) A University of California survey found almost all — 97 percent — were not able to transition until after they left the service.

But there’s a shift happening. According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of veterans seeking advice on transgender issues has doubled in the past 10 years. And hundreds of currently serving transgender members of the armed forces have joined an underground support movement called SPART*A. (About 20 of them are out to their peers, and a handful are also out to their superiors. They describe meeting with wildly varying degrees of support, much as gays and lesbians found before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”)

Lt. Col. Cate McGregor of the Australian Defense Force. CreditConor Ashleigh for The New York Times

Transgender men and women are not banned from serving by congressional law, but by military medical codes. These codes classify being transgender as a psychological disorder, which was in line with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III, published in 1980. But the latest edition of the manual, the D.S.M.-5, released last May, replaced “Gender Identity Disorder” with “gender dysphoria.” The point of the change, according to the American Psychiatric Association, was to make it clear that “gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder.”

The military has not acknowledged this shift. Asked if the Defense Department would reconsider its policies and make the necessary regulatory change, a spokesman for the Pentagon, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, responded, “Department of Defense regulations don’t allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military, based upon medical standards for military service.”

So the global anomalies remain. And a growing number are asking why.

A new documentary series called “TransMilitary,” which is scheduled to be released online in the fall, will contrast the experiences of transgender people in the armed forces in America and Britain. Fiona Dawson, the show’s host and producer, says the difference between the countries is “shocking.” While she has found several transgender members of the armed forces under investigation in America with likely discharge, in Britain, she found support, and some celebration.

“A captain in the British Army even had a ‘patch party’ thrown for her to celebrate her first day of hormones,” she told me. “Her colleagues slapped Band-Aids on their arms while she applied her first hormone patch. These are the human interactions that build a trusting, cohesive and robust team.”

Across the world, bold transgender men and women are stepping into the public light to show it is possible to live authentic lives while serving their countries. Many face rejection, many struggle with suicidal thoughts, and the great majority serve in secret. But others are speaking out.

Allyson Robinson, now an L.G.B.T. consultant, served in the United States Army and was ordained as a Baptist minister before coming out as transgender and transitioning to female. She says her greatest struggle when studying at West Point was the honor code — “a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.” Having to conceal her true gender identity felt like a violation of that code.

But since transitioning, she says she has experienced “nothing but respect” from people in the military. Once, when she told a puzzled cadet at the West Point gate that she had studied there, he clicked his heels and said: “Well, then, welcome home, ma’am.” She cried all the way to the parking lot, and cries when retelling the story now.

One of the highest-ranking transgender military officers in the world — if not the highest — is Lt. Col. Cate McGregor of the Australian Defense Force. When she decided to undergo gender reassignment in 2012, she offered to resign. But her boss, the chief of Army, Lt. Gen. David Morrison, refused to allow it. She is now a prominent and widely respected officer (and cricket commentator) who attributes her acceptance to her colleagues’ support and Australia’s “live and let live” pragmatism. Most “alpha Aussie blokes,” she says, were content that she was “still into chicks” and could still hit a cricket ball, which amused her: “There is a groping towards a paradigm of blokeyness they can accept.” Every day now, she says, living as a woman, “it feels amazing to be alive.”

General Morrison said that watching Colonel McGregor’s struggles has deepened his understanding of what it means to be transgender: “My hat goes off to everyone who does it because they are trying to be true to themselves. It takes an enormous amount of courage. And if an army can’t respect courage, then there’s something wrong.”

Courage, surely, should be part of any honor code, too.