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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 3, 2001 - Issue 48


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 Voice of Tradition; Indian Tribes' Storytelling Transends Time


by Audrey Wong, The Argus staff writer


"The Storyteller - 11,003 B.C." Oil painting by Martin Pate

Jane Dumas, an honored elder representing the Kumyaay tribe, spoke to the audience Sunday, October 28, at the seventh annual Northern California Indian Storytelling Symposium and Festival at Ohlone College.

Stories and philosophies centuries old still can pertain to modern life. Clarence Holtler said Sunday. Hostler, who is of the Hupa and Karuk tribes, told an attentive audience about how Amerian Indians believe emotional stress in the home can harm children.

The child who can't cope with problems at home can bring those problems to society.

"It can contaminate the community," Hostler said. "It can extend to gangs and terrorism."

Hostler was one of 38 storytellers who spoke at the two-day event. More than 20 tribes were represented at the festival, which drew about 300 people, said Lanny Pinola, co-chair of the Fremont-based California Indian Storytelling Association.

Many tribes represented are from California, including the Ohlone, Chumash, Pit River and Hupa, Pinola said.

The association organized the event to preserve the oral traditions of Americans. By perpetuating storytelling, Indians can know their own history and other people can learn about those tribes, Pinola said.

The stories were a mix of traditional tales to personal experiences that taught lessons.

Hostler spoke of a child-healing dance that was created by a frog. Long ago, he said a little boy cared for injured frogs. A grandfather frog admired the boy's compassion. When the amphibian learned the boy was sick, he gathered all the animals and plants to help him create a prayer to heal the child.

At the end of his story, Hostler broke into song that accompanies the child-healing dance.

Louis Gustafson, of the Pit River tribe near Redding, said he learned stories from elder storytellers of other tribes. One elder spoke of prophecies predicting space travel and television, Gustafson said.

But while the event was diverse, It also revealed similarities between different groups of people. One Csta Rican storyteller was surprised to discover another tribe have the same stories as his people, Gustafson said.

Although many of the stories are old, they still are relevant, Gustafson said. "They talk about how we live as men and women and they cross over today," he said.

California Indian Storytelling Festivals
The California Indian Storytelling Festivals provide a gathering place where CA Indian storytellers and cultural tradition bearers from diverse tribes present workshops, panel discussions, and storytelling performances -- a time when the stories, in both traditional form and contemporary experience, may flourish.

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