National Writing Project

Why We Are Sticking To Our Stories

By: Tina Deschenie
Publication: Tribal College Journal of American Indian Higher Education
Date: Winter 2007

Summary: In the Winter, 2007 Tribal College Journal, Deschenie, a teacher-consultant with the Bisti Writing Project (NM), discusses the value of storytelling in her native family. This article won a bronze in the "Magazines-Editorial" category from the Society of National Association Publishers.


Excerpt from Article

On winter nights when we were snug in our beds in the darkness after the kerosene lamp was blown out, my father would start telling us stories about Má'ii, or Coyote, and his adventures. One of my favorites was about the time Coyote lost his eyes in a game he played with the birds. Although they warned him against it, he insisted they remove his eyes, which he promptly lost. Feeling sorry for him, the birds made eyes for him from yellow pine pitch. This is why coyotes even today have yellow eyes...

Truthfully, no written summary of this story can do it justice. My father could spin this story out for over an hour. His version was laden with detail that told you how high and warm the sun was, what the sky looked like, how the tree leaves whispered and what colors they were, how the birds appeared and the sounds they made, what smells were in the air, and how the land felt as Coyote walked upon it.

He told us what the birds were thinking when Coyote approached and what Coyote thought as he watched the birds play with his eyes. His richly evocative version of the story was meant to be heard...

I'm glad I heard my people's stories as a child, because in boarding school and public school, I heard no Coyote stories or Diné stories of any kind...

As No Child Left Behind seeks to shape a more literate society, we must remember that we come from cultures rooted in the power and beauty of oral tradition and face-to-face storytelling.

We must tell our story our way.

Read the Full Article

Read Why We Are Sticking To Our Stories in the Tribal College Journal.

About the Author Tina Deschenie (Diné/Hopi) has been editor of the Tribal College Journal since 2006. She has over 20 years of experience in American Indian education.

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