Native American Storytelling

Aug 15th, 2012 | By | Category: 24-1: Communicating Yesterday's Stories Today, Web Exclusive
By Jen McFaggan

Every culture has its own stories that people pass down from generation to generation.  “Santa Claus” is known by many different names in many different cultures.  Kris Kringle and Santa Claus are common in the United States and the United Kingdom.  Papa Noel is used by people living in Latin America, Egypt, and Brazil.  There are also very common stories, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and the most famous, the Bible story.

There are other stories as well that get passed on throughout the years.  In the Native American culture, a lot of the stories that are told are passed down so that we don’t forget who we are.  I am a Lakota Sioux Indian, but had a very non-traditional upbringing.  Having a Sioux mother and a very Scotch-Irish father, I didn’t know what side I was supposed to be on. 

It’s tough for me to think that while I was growing up I didn’t have any kind of traditional values set forth for me.  My Sioux grandmother didn’t really take the time to sit with my sister and me and tell us very many stories.  She had bad spirit stories to tell, but none that would give us any life lessons or morals.  I can remember my uncle telling a few stories, but it was such a long time ago, I don’t remember the actual meaning of them.  I wish he were still alive so he could tell me again.

One thing I am sad about is the fact that I have nothing to tell my daughter.  She asked me a while ago, “Mom, are we Indians?”  I told her, “Yes, we’re Sioux, and be proud of it.”  We don’t look Native, but it’s still in our blood.  It would be nice to pass on any Lakota stories, but I don’t know any.  There are some things that I have been taught over the years, like the use of tobacco for giving thanks, noticing owls, and that eagles are good signs.  I’ve heard about smudging, and things to do when there are spirits around, being that I can feel them around me all the time. 

I think it is so important for the Native American youth of today to pay attention to what the elders have to say. I think it is important for them to carry on the language and traditions so that they don’t fizzle out. These days it’s hard to find someone my age or younger, or even ten or twenty years older than I am, who can speak their Native language.  I really hope that the stories still get passed down; otherwise the new generation of Natives will grow up not knowing where their roots really are from.

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