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Native American Story Telling

By alisafatima Mar 09, 2014 853 Words
Story telling was the heart of Native American culture. The way natives executed everyday tasks and their way of thinking came from what they heard as children from stories that were passed through multiple generations. When White Settlers started tearing tribe by tribe apart and claiming Native American land as their own, a dwindling effect on the rich Native’s culture became noticeable. The sense of unity they once knew so well was becoming an unknown aspect which ultimately left each individual shattered because they were so used to being and acting like one whole. Storytelling became a sort of glue that united and healed the damage done by the White Settlers. Already being the basic guidelines that each Native survived on, stories became even more valued because they were the things that kept the culture from becoming extinct. Storytelling re-taught the natives the way their ancestors taught and spoke, how their surroundings came to be and how to live a good, pious life. It was how they so eagerly grasped for sanity when they were basically stripped from all rights they had from the Colonials. Native American storytelling incorporates many themes and structures, some more evident that others, such as poetic writing styles that include morals, and an explanation of how the world came to be.

Morals were a crucial factor why ancestors passed stories down to their offspring, other than just for enjoyment. They incorporated what they thought were major principals of living or not living a good life into stories by writing them in between the lines. A little child that was listening to an elder recalling a story might be listening for the mere amusement but also leaving with a lesson learned. In “The Sky Tree” from the Huron- Eastern Woodland tradition, the extremes the wife of the old man goes through to save her husband is definitely admirable, regardless if the story is true or not. The moral of trying to do all you can to save a loved one can be taken from this tale. This concept of Native American stories having morals is also found in “Coyote Finishes His Work” from the Nez Percé tradition. After reading the overly confident coyote correcting the wrongs on earth and then getting punished for his mischief, one can take away the lesson of being humble and not abuse power no matter how capable you are. These texts that heavily included morals helped remind the Natives how to repair and establish a meaningful life, even after being influenced by the White Men.

As the Native’s became unsure of how the world even worked anymore when seeing the odd lifestyle of the Whites, storytelling reminded the way their ancestors explained their surroundings. The simplest aspects of life, like how a turtle got its shell, was explained in Native American stories. As said in “The Sky Tree”, the turtle got its shell when telling all the animals to dive down into a deep pit in order to save the wife of the old man and bring up the soil and place it on his back. This simple explanation showed the thought process of the oldest Native’s and helped bring a sense of unity among the broken ones. Broader ideas, such as how the world came to be, were also included in these tales. According to “Coyote Finishes His Work”, the coyote gave people names, taught them languages and how to hunt. Some way or another, humans learned how to these perform basic tasks. Native Americans explained how their people achieved these tasks by claiming The Coyote taught them. This concept was easier to take in rather than the Theory of Evolution, especially in an era where science was less developed. Creating stories of how the world worked when confused was what the Native Americans did best. Imagining how utterly lost the Natives were when the colonials came, one can assume that more stories were created. Stories of how strange men with snow skin must have calmed the nerves of scared Indians and settled the uproar. It is human nature to become less agitated of an unknown idea if an explanation was given. In this case, Native Americans produced hundreds of stories so that their people could live in peace without having to consistently question everything in existence.

Incorporating basic ideas of how the world functions and principals of being a generally good person in Native American storytelling influenced how Natives lived and perceived the world around them. Without these stories the Indians would have no sense of culture to latch on to as settlers tried to change their ways. Each significant society of people throughout the years had some sort of guidelines on which their people believed. Egyptians having their stories written in hieroglyphics which were carved into walls to Christians having their fundamentals in the Bible. Aside from being the rules people acted upon, maybe each civilization came up with their perspective on life to authenticate their establishments. Whatever the reasoning was behind storytelling, Native Americans definitely did not exclude that factor in their culture. Storytelling was their culture.

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