Storytelling, The Native American Way

Written by Sherrie Locke, 5 Akabal, March 2014.

In Tewa tradition, we are renowned storytellers.

Stories are about learning to listen.

Many times the stories are real or told like a campsite tale, but if grandma or grandpa or even a cousin say they have a story, all would gather around to listen. The story would always have a significant teaching but was never presented as something “One should learn,” not even along the lines of, “the moral to the story is….” Nope.

It’s more like the story itself gives the understanding of a much larger picture, a scenario, or a fundamental life lesson knowledge key. Then later if they wanted to remind us, they would say, “remember the story of the woodpecker, or the story of ….”. Sometimes we would tell funny stories and everybody would laughs and laugh, a point would be made without the usual someone telling you what to think or feel. No one would ever say, “That’s not true!” or even ask why.

Other times, we cousins would tell stories of the future (wild fantasies), and we would all be riveted. Then when we were all enthralled in the story, one of our names would come out of the storyteller’s mouth and we would all laugh with glee to hear about cousin Jeff’s future escapades or mine.

Sometimes there were creation stories, sometimes a story about how something “came to be.” Usually right after we saw one. My cousins and I preferred the more metaphysical and paranormal stories, ours many times with a “moral to the story,” which was usually, “Don’t go lookin’ for trouble!”

We told stories that we had heard from other tribes (not Western gossip). If we told someone else’s story, it was usually a great inspiration, or one of those “how things work” stories from grandma. We Tewa are not alone in maintaining our storytelling tradition. Here are links to contemporary Native North American storytellers:

Larry Littlebird               Ed Lee            Butterfly Garcia

Ho! Mitakuye’ Oyasin!


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