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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Two Old Women  >  Discussion Questions
Chapter 7 - The stillness is broken

 Chapter Summary: In this chapter Dagoo and the hunters find the two old women alive and healthy. After an initial tense confrontation, the two old women lay down strict rules about how they will interact with The People. The two old women share their food with the men and promise to share with The People if they promise to follow their demands.

Discussion Questions for Chapter Seven:

How do you think the women felt when they first heard the voice of Dagoo? (p. 108)

Points to consider:

  • The women would have felt both fear and relief.
  • Perhaps they felt they imagined hearing voices after such a long period of time with silence.

Why did Ch’idzigyaak panic when she heard the voice? (p. 108)

Points to consider:

  • She panics because she knows the voice means they have been found.
  • The voice also means a confrontation with her daughter and grandson, if they are still alive.

Why did Sa’ and Ch’idzigyaak have spears? (p. 110)

Points to consider:

  • The women are prepared to die in order to protect their hard work.
  • They want to show the men they are serious.

What does Ch’idzigyaak mean when she says, “Like he did last time,” with regards to Dagoo’s promise of the chief protecting the two old women. (p. 111)

Points to consider:

  • In leaving them behind, the chief broke his unofficial promise to protect the tribe, which included the two old women.
  • She is being sarcastic here, and letting Dagoo know they are bitter about being left behind. This is a barb at Dagoo, as well, for he should have spoken up.

Why are the two old women in better shape than The People? (p. 113)

Points to consider:

  • They have a huge food supply as well as furs and firewood.
  • They are stronger mentally. They have never given up.

Why do you think Ch’idzigyaak doesn’t feel pity for the starving hunters?

Points to consider:

  • She is bitter and angry.
  • She can’t allow herself to trust the people who left her behind.

What do the women fear now that The People have found them? (p. 115)

Points to consider:

  • They fear having their cache raided.
  • They fear being left behind again.

Why do you think Dagoo promises to protect the women? (p. 115)

Points to consider:

  • Dagoo himself is older, and his promise to protect them also means that he understands the vulnerable role of the elders in the band, including himself.
  • Dagoo admires the old women and he knows the band was wrong in leaving them behind.

How does discovering the women make him feel about himself? (p. 116)

Points to consider:

  • After seeing the women survive, as frail and weak as they had been, Dagoo knows he too could survive.
  • He gains new hope in himself and his abilities.

Why do the two old women agree to return to The People? What have they been missing? (p. 117)

Points to consider:

  • They return out of a sense of obligation to share their success.
  • They also agree to return because they miss the band, the children, and the sense of belonging.

What does Sa’ mean when she says, “If they do the same to us again, we will survive.” (p. 118)

Points to consider:

  • They know they have the tools and strength to survive now.
  • The women have changed. They are no longer helpless and like “babies” as they once were.

How will the two old women always be a “reminder to them in harder times ahead?” (p. 118)

Points to consider:

  • They will be a living reminder of how survival is always possible.
  • The women will also remind The People of the wisdom the elders possess.

Why did the two old women insist that The People would eat sparingly from the food they would give them? (p. 121)

Points to consider:

  • They understood the need to practice sustainability.
  • They never wanted to face famine again and, by making sure they always had enough, they would always be able to have the energy to hunt and gather.

Why did the women sleep worry-free for the first night in a long time? (p. 121)

Points to consider:

  • They were no longer alone and didn’t have to worry about wolves and other predators.
  • The males gave them a sense of safety, something even their struggle hadn’t quite given them, as they now knew they weren’t alone and that someone would protect them.

Chapter Eight: A new beginning

Chapter Summary: In this final chapter The People and the two old women reunite. Mother and daughter and son are brought back together and the band learns a valuable lesson about communication, respect for the elders, and themselves. The two old women are appointed to the council to share the knowledge they possess.

Discussion Questions for Chapter Eight:

This chapter is titled “A new beginning.” Why? (p. 123)

Points to consider:

  • The People have a chance to start over with the two old women.
  • They also have a chance to rethink the choices they made in the past and to start anew.

Why did the two old women only give small portions of food? (p. 125)

Points to consider:

  • They wanted to teach the band what they had learned about how to use their resources.
  • They understood the importance of making the little that they had last as long as possible to avoid starvation.

Why do you think The People were forbidden from visiting the camp of the two old women? (p. 126)

Points to consider:

  • The women feared the reaction to their accumulation of wealth (fur, wood, and food).
  • They were still leery of The People and did not trust them fully.

Why do you think Ch’idzigyaak was afraid to ask about the fate of her family? (p. 129)

Points to consider:

  • She was afraid they didn’t survive.
  • She might have also been afraid to confront them. She might not have known what to say to her.

Why was Ch’idzigyaak unsure her daughter would visit? (p. 130)

Points to consider:

  • She may have thought her daughter would feel too guilty about leaving her behind.
  • She couldn’t be sure how her daughter felt about not speaking out when the decision was made to leave the old women.

What do you think Ch’idzigyaak whispered in Ozhii Nelii’s ear? (p. 134)

Points to consider:

  • This is a great question to ask for discussion because everyone will have a different answer.
  • Perhaps the question might be this: What could she say that would allow her daughter to no longer feel guilt?
  • The question of why Wallis chose not to reveal this whisper also makes for great discussion.

Explain the new roles in the band. (p. 135)

Points to consider:

  • The women now had honorary positions and would be allowed to share ideas and thoughts.
  • The roles of gender might also be reconsidered.

How had the band changed? (p. 135)

Points to consider:

  • The band learned to respect elders and to communicate with each other.
  • They also learned to respect the resources and to not over-hunt an area and deplete the resources in that area.

How did The People know that more hard times were to follow? (p. 135)

Points to consider:

  • Hard times were a part of the land. There would always be difficult winters and The People knew they must always be ready for those times.
  • Times of scarcity and difficulty would always play a role in the Gwich’in lifestyle.

The People wanted to help the old women in any way that they could. Why wouldn’t the two old women allow much assistance? (p. 135)

Points to consider:

  • The women feared they would allow themselves to get lazy again.
  • They also didn’t want to lose their value to the tribe.


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