How well do you know the Hudson River? Are you interested in taking a cruise from Lake Tear of the Clouds to the Atlantic Ocean? Would you like to experience the journey with each paddle stroke of a Native American youth canoeing the waterway in the 17th century? This voyage – past astonishing landmarks that are little changed in all this time – can be followed in the pages of Tail Feather: Adventures of a Mohawk Paddler on the River-that-Flows-Two-Ways.
This book recounts the joys and hardship of a long journey of discovery more than 400 years ago. It is a coming-of-age story at a time when individual achievements were severely tested but in some ways were not so different than those faced by young people today.
As this panorama unfolds, one can sense the thrill of adventure and, of course, misadventure with its discomfort and danger. Along the way, Tail Feather finds reality in the far-fetched stories listened to since childhood, curled up fireside in the longhouse during long winter nights. One mid-river encounter, however, is wholly unforeseen: the canoes come head-on to a European ship, setting the time in the year 1613. The journey ends at Water-With-No-End, the ocean’s horizon, when an astonishing sight emerges from the depth, bringing to mind an image in a dream early in the story.
Part I, the Story of Tail Feather, contains 198 reference notes that expand various subjects mentioned in the story. In addition to providing factual information, they may also contain little-known fun facts and humor. The following List of Notes in Part II presents an overview of these topics. It is arranged numerically by the chapter number in which each note is located, and by the note number and title as well.
|1||11||Game with Leather Stick|
|1||13||The Black Robes|
|1||15||The League of the Iroquois|
|2||17||Activities in Winter|
|3||22||Food in Winter|
|3||31||Migration of Birds|
|4||33||Chores for Children|
|4||35||Bow and Arrow|
|5||41||The Sky Hunter|
|5||43||People of the Flint|
|6||47||Lake Tear of the Clouds|
|6||48||Mountain Top Vegetation|
|6||49||View from a Mountain|
|6||51||Headwaters of the Hudson|
|6||53||Little Continental Divide|
|6||55||Adirondack Mt. Trail 121|
|7||58||Building a Canoe|
|7||60||The Sweat Lodge|
|7||61||Beaver Tail Soup|
|7||63||The Smoking Pipe|
|10||71||Hudson River Gorge|
|10||72||Linking a Canoe|
|10||74||Repairing a Canoe|
|11||78||The Speckled Trout|
|11||79||The Snapping Turtle|
|12||84||Mohicans / Mahicans|
|12||86||The Fate of Captives|
|14||91||The Mohawk River|
|15||97||The White-Tailed Fawn|
|16||108||The Great Bear|
|16||109||The Twin Stars|
|17||111||Regrowth of Land|
|18||120||The Shad Tree|
|18||121||The Hudson Highlands|
|18||124||Storm King Mountain|
|18||130||Rough Water Canoeing|
|18||132||The Popcorn Surprise|
|19||141||The Tulip Tree|
|20||145||The Tappan Zee|
|21||153||The Funeral Procession|
|22||154||The Williow Tree|
|22||156||The Caves of Inwood|
|22||157||The Healing Arts|
|22||159||The Wolf Pup|
|23||161||The Moccasin Flower|
|23||162||Island of the Hills|
|23||173||The Chestnut Tree|
|23||174||The Trading Site|
|23||178||Long Distance Commerce|
|24||181||New York Harbor|
|24||182||The Harbor Islands|
|24||188||The East River|
|24||189||The Brooklyn Bridge|
|24||194||Spuyten Duvil and The Harlem River Ship Canal|
|24||195||The Island of Manhattan|
|25||198||Names for the Hudson River|
You can also download a PDF of the map here!
Kenneth Little Hawk is a renowned storyteller and musician featuring the culture of Native Americans. He has performed extensively in schools, museums and at historical restoration sites both in the United States and internationally.
Welcome, welcome, all of you
Every nation, every culture, every color, every hue.
Open your heart so you may hear
More with your spirit, less with your ear.
All my life I have been guided by the wisdom of my ancestors, the Mi’kmaq of Maine and New Brunswick, Canada, and the Mohawks of the Iroquois Nation. Over the years I’ve shared the lessons of my elders around the world.
During those travels I was honored to meet author, Ray Phillips. Our common ground was respect for the wisdom of First Nations’ people as well as appreciation for the knowledge that everyone has a story to tell. Dr. Phillips and I share this ancient culture in different ways. My way is through oral storytelling, music, and dance; his is with pen and paper.
Long ago, when Nature was treated with sacred reverence, indigenous stories were passed on by word of mouth, from heart to heart, from generation to generation, with as many levels as there are in the universe. Through these oral traditions came stories and songs for all ages to entertain, teach, and remind us how we can live in a good way. First Nations’ stories teach that most of life’s challenges can be overcome. They also teach us that we need to share our good-heartedness with all people because we are ALL related.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Dr. Phillip’s stories as they developed. His latest work is The River Quintet. This is a series of five interrelated, stand-alone novels set in a time and place when my ancestors first met Europeans arriving in the northeastern part of what they called the New World. Book One is Tail Feather: The Adventures of a Mohawk Paddler on The River‐That‐Flows‐Two‐Ways.
All the stories are gripping, adventurous, and educational, while sensitive to the indigenous viewpoint, with an understanding of the human spirit and cultural practices of the time, and our relationship to Mother Earth.
I invite all people, their children, and their grandchildren to read Dr. Phillips’ historically detailed, The River Quintet. The stories show how Mother Earth’s people share more common traits and needs than differences, and how to live with respect. A favorite story is in Tail Feather, which tells how the narcissistic bear lost his beautiful tail; at the same time, it offers insight into the rich history and culture of young Native boys.
May you enjoy reading these stories as much as I did!
Author and retired middle and high school teacher of Social Studies with thirty-three years of experience in the Albany City School District. He spent many years as a volunteer crewmember and teacher chaperone on the full-scale replica of the Half Moon, Henry Hudson’s 17th century ship of discovery. He also is the author and/or curriculum resource developer of publications that include:
For the New Netherland Museum / Replica Ship Half Moon
Voyage of Discovery: New Netherland—An Exploration of Past and Present, An Interdisciplinary Curriculum for the 4th Grade
Voyage of Discovery: New Netherland —An Exploration of a Dutch Colonial Settlement, A Team Teaching Interdisciplinary Curriculum for the 7th Grade
Indians of the Hudson Valley—An Exploration of Indian Life: Before, During and After European Contact (1550-1750), A Curriculum Resource for the Elementary and Middle Grades
For the Albany Institute of History and Art
- Hudson River Panorama: 400 Years of History, Art, and Culture—Teacher Resource
- Capital Region 50 Objects – Educator Resource
Tail Feather is an interesting, historically accurate and absorbing tale of a young Mohawk Indian as he begins his coming of age maturation through native customs and rites of passage. Dr. Phillips’ storyline includes representations of nearly all aspects of Native American culture during the early 17th century. Tail Feather experiences life changing situations and decisions that form a foundation for his future and a strong framework for his character.
As an educational tool, Tail Feather would be very appropriate for middle school learners. This first book of the River Quintet introduces a subject matter that will proceed with the development of the reader. Many middle school students are enrolled in schools that utilize team teaching, wings, or looping. Students travel throughout their day in groups that receive instruction from the same team of teachers. This provides for an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Educational themes can be carried over to numerous subject matter classes. Native American cultures introduced in seventh grade cover a scope and sequence framework of unifying themes that include cultural identity and interaction, geography, environment, social structures, expansion, and social systems. Tail Feather’s early life journeys explore the physical environment and natural resources that influenced the development of settlement in North America. He explores various societies of Native American culture and how geography and climate influence migration and cultural development, technology, innovation, and global connections and exchange.
As students move to science class, they will learn about the Living Environment and Physical Setting. The descriptions of Tail Feather’s environment, flora, fauna, geology, weather and natural resources can all be reintroduced and reinforced in science classes.
English Language Arts classroom teachers can introduce parts of the ELA curriculum framework into a class discussion of The River Quintet novels. This framework recommends that students, as they read for understanding, look for the key Ideas and details of the writing, Readers are encouraged to identify themes, analyze story elements. and draw conclusions by identifying textual evidence and support for their findings. The wide geographical extent and temporal range of the five novels (79 years) offers the students and indeed, all readers, an opportunity to see these individual details in a larger historical perspective. The last aspect of the ELA framework is to integrate the work of literature (in this case, The River Quintet) into one’s general knowledge of the time and understand the issues presented from many different viewpoints.
The Notes About the Story and Teacher’s Guide sections can be used to parallel the story’s value throughout the interdisciplinary mode. As students begin to become more responsible for their own learning, they may choose to investigate topics of personal interest and self-direct their own learning experiences. The Notes and Guide provide a jumping off point to further such goals.
Tail Feather experiences conflict during his maturation and decision-making processes, just as most middle school students do. His story’s progress keeps the reader interested in what happens next, eager to see what’s around the next corner, beyond the forest, over the mountain, or down the river. Tail Feather, “…could not go back to childhood. He must go on, and the lure of unknown places lying just beyond the next bend in the river drew him onward.”
The first of a set of five historical novels, Tail Feather provides the groundwork needed to introduce the reader to the discoveries, settlement, development, and expansion yet to come. While Tail Feather paddles through life and beyond, he acts as the touchstone that ushers in the interconnectedness of Indian village life, foreign lands, onboard ship voyages, and the colonial period; parts of our history that start with a young Mohawk.
Tail Feather was a great read. Presents a cinematic tour of the Hudson and a moving coming-of-age story. A fun adventure, while illuminating of the time period, landscape, and culture. Highly recommended!
A young Mohawk’s journey of self-discovery is truly an eye-opener, as he encounters unfamiliar practices and customs of other tribes living along the river, as well as the ship of Adriaen Block. Reading this story was gratifying for me, as it highlighted many of the Hudson River sites that I know so well. The List of Notes separating the two parts of the book shows at a glance the monumental research undertaken by the author. Tail Feather combines a heart-warming story of adolescence with vast flora and fauna and cultural content. People of all ages should enjoy this book.