storyteller Tim Tingle remembers the first time he tried to tell
an audience about the Trail of Tears.
used historically accurate facts. The entire front row walked out.
was one of the organizers and presenters at the 5 Tribes Story Conference
at Bacone College. The event started Friday and ends today.
conference brings together renowned authors, storytellers and professors.
Throughout the two days, tribal historians and Native speakers are
discussing a wide range of topics, from the Trail of Tears to the
boarding school experience.
from Canyon Lake, Texas, said he has learned better ways to convey
Native American history and culture.
tell the story now from the mouth of an 8-year-old boy, he
said. My first line now is I remember my mother.
I talk about her long dark hair falling in my face, and how I would
pull on it, and we would play a hair-pulling game.
said he gets 15 minutes into the story before his audience realizes
he is talking about the Trail of Tears.
one has ever walked out on that one, because I tell about a little
boy, he said. As a writer and storyteller, then what
happens to the character in the story happens to the audience.
said the conference started as a discussion between him and fellow
Choctaw writer and storyteller Greg Rodgers. Mary Robinson, educational
director at Muskogees Five Civilized Tribes Museum, caught
the vision and began the process of securing grants and funding
for the two-day celebration of Oklahoma Indian stories.
been telling stories since 1990, he said. Some times
we go to academic conferences and hear the Trail of Tears told with
accurate details. Then we go to storytelling events with American
Indians telling fictional accounts along with poets and novelists.
asked ourselves, Wouldnt it be great to bring all these
people together to talk about the Trail of Tears and the boarding
schools? The conference isnt just about the facts, its
about how the teller makes it palatable by framing tragedy in family.
conference features award-winning authors such as Pulitzer finalist
Linda Hogan (Chickasaw), Diane Glancy (Cherokee), and Phillip Morgan
(Chickasaw) and Joan Bear (Muscogee Creek). Among the speakers are
Dr. Les Hannah (Cherokee), poet, professor, and well-known storyteller;
Richard Adams (Choctaw) elder language instructor; and Dr. Pete
Coser (Creek), assistant vice president at Bacones Center
for American Indians.
include flute-maker Choogie Kingfisher (Cherokee), Phillip Harjo
(Seminole), Lorie Robins (Chickasaw), Stella Long (Choctaw) and
Ryan Mackey (Cherokee). Humorous stories are be included.
tribal members, the conference offers a chance to share family experiences,
while non-Native Americans can enjoy a rare close-up look at history
and fiction through American Indian eyes.
Scott, assistant director of the Choctaw School of Language in Durant,
said he was at the conference to participate in the storytelling
and talk about the Choctaw language.
think storytelling and language certainly go together, he
said. This was something that is part of our tradition. A
lot of the stories that are told today in English our elders told
in their own language, which to me are the real stories. They not
only told the stories in our language, but they acted them out.
said storytelling has been one of the foundations of Native American
always had a meaning to the stories that they told, because they
were about how we should conduct ourselves as Choctaw people,
he said. The reason Im here is to encourage language.
I believe that we are probably one generation away from losing our
language. It should be promoted.