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On National Aboriginal Day: How do aboriginal peoples south of the border cope with tornadoes?

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Saturday, June 21, 2014, 11:04 AM -

Aside from being the official start of summer, June 21 is also National Aboriginal Day in Canada.

The week leading up to it was an active one for tornadoes in some parts of North America. An outbreak in the United States produced an incredibly rare double tornado, while in Canada, an evening of severe weather produced severe storms and two confirmed tornadoes in Ontario, one of which damaged several homes in Angus (no one was killed).

When it comes to tornado awareness, however, it seems we might take a cue from some of the first peoples to inhabit the Americas, based on a couple of stories we spotted on the web this week.

This Reuters feature highlights the Cheyenne-Arapaho people in Oklahoma, a very tornado-prone state that where a major twister killed 24 people in Moore, just outside of Oklahoma City. Elders in one community say they have developed rituals over the centuries to turn away the twisters.

RELATED VIDEO: National Aboriginal Day in Vancouver, B.C.

We're not sure about the science behind it, but Reuters says Oklahoma officials say Native American lands in the state have suffer less tornado damage over the past 60 years than communities elsewhere in the state (although they are still affected by them from time to time, and most Native American communities have tornado shelters).

It may be based on observing the natural world around them, with the elder quoted in the story noting signs like birdsong quieting suddenly, livestock changing their behaviours and leaves on trees being blown a certain way.

The article is worth a read, as is another on NPR.

Published the day of Ontario's tornado threat earlier this week, it portrays Native Americans as not just predictors, but chroniclers, of extreme weather such as tornado.

Check out the Silver Horn Pictorial Calendar. Kept by the Kiowa people, also in Oklahoma, it's a series of drawings chronicling the summers and winters from the 1820s up until the early 20th Century, along with significant events that made each stand out. 

Tornadoes make their appearance also, with a major tornado outbreak in 1905 taking the form of a raging, giant horse with the lower body of a snake. It's a good example, says writer Linton Weeks, of Native Americans, like their non-native counterparts, struggled to comprehend the nature of these powerful forces of nature.

You can read the full article here.

RELATED VIDEO: Footage of the tornado that damaged homes in Angus, Ont.

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