IntroductionAug 15th, 2002 | By ltapahonso | Category: Student 2002
By Luci Tapahonso
The art of storytelling has always been strong in indigenous communities. Over the centuries, the form has evolved and exists now in many versions. This collection of student writing from various tribal colleges shows how dynamic this literary form is today. Although the students touch upon contemporary concerns, there exist nuances of the indigenous philosophies and teachings that are the cornerstones of indigenous cultures.
The important aspects of kinship and heritage are the basis of these poems and stories. We are reassured that the values of previous generations will be maintained as some of the students write of relearning their traditional languages and young parents tell of teaching children about their unique heritage and cultures. Here are stories of seemingly simple lessons learned from grandparents, tributes to those who have passed on, and the recognition that our relatives have the distinct power to affect our lives. It becomes clear that the sense of kinship and community are treasured facets of Indian life today. In a story by Mark Mindt, he shows how traditional roles, such as that of a warrior, remain important, albeit in ways that adapt to a modern context.
The stories contained in ordinary objects, such as scarves, and the recognition of daily activities, such as children playing in a water sprinkler, remind us how the sacred exists in daily life. These stories remind us of our own childhoods, they remind us to spend time with our elders, and they tell us to remember that many of our blessings are not tangible but instead lie in our home and family life.
The realities of life in Indian Country are narrated in honest and compelling ways. We are shown the intense pressures that alcohol and substance abuse have wrought upon our families. In stark literary revelations, we become witness to the demoralizing legacies of violence and death. Some of these poems and stories reflect the pain and grief that many of our people live with daily, and yet, there are implications of hope in the work these writers share. It is in the unique use of literary devices such as symbolism and imagery that we are reassured of the writers’ abiding faith in their cultures and the knowledge therein.
The element of storytelling remains vital today. In this instance, the medium has changed, but the skill and respect that have always been associated with good storytelling remain strong. For many of these writers, this is their first published work. If we are fortunate, we will see more from these students. The encouragement and support of the Tribal College Journal will go a long way in providing impetus to the growing field of indigenous writers. Though many scholars lament the loss of indigenous culture and language, this collection shows that the essence of traditional thought and philosophy continues to thrive. This compilation illustrates that as cultures change and languages evolve, the literary traditions change as well. It reinforces the idea of continuance and survival, albeit in vastly different ways than our elders might have imagined generations ago.
I want to thank the writers for offering me, and the readers, an intimate and sometimes painful view of the communities we call home. I like the idea of reading stories that are tied to specific places; it gives personal meaning to the landscape.
Reading these stories and poems has been a blessing because they are wrought from personal experiences, family histories, dreams, and our communities. They convey the knowledge therein. These are stories that are told as only these writers can tell them: honestly, compellingly, yet compassionately and full of hope – hope for all of us.
Professor Luci Tapahonso teaches at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is the author of five books of poetry and three children’s books. She is Diné from Shiprock, NM.
A Hero’s Story By Paul Chavez
Scarves By Melinda Caye
The Scars to Remind Me By Lela Schwitzer
In the Hands of an Abuser By Yvonne Cantrell
Thanksgiving Surprise By Rachel H. Reuben
Sprinklers and Pools By Ree Morsette
The Story of a Strongheart By Mark L. Mindt
Two Best Friends By Amy L. Bearstail
Introspection By Tamara Moore-LeBeau
Grandpa Potts By Faith Butterfly
For My Son By Linda Jones
Daddy Loves You By Dustina Gill
Dear George W. By Manuel Gullatt, Jr.
Small Enginish By Pansy Goodall
Two Poems By Thomas Spint
Virtuosity By Joel Tohtsonie
Lakota Blood By Danielle Rose Black Fox
My Hero By Samuel M. Bird In Ground
Sleep-Deprived Lullaby By Lydia Zilkoski
How it Feels to be an Indian Man By Thomas Yeahpau