Indigenous Women: Nations, Cultures, Voices

The Blog offers information about Indigenous women spanning topics from current events in Indian Country to book reviews to discussion of Indigenous women’s cultural histories and ritual cycles relating to the Earth. Above all, there are the voices of Indigenous women as they present themselves.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Traditional Winter Storytelling

b2ap3_thumbnail_icstorymoonlogo.jpgHello Relatives! I'm so glad you could come with me this evening and travel to a gathering to hear a traditional Indigenous Grandma's storytelling! Historically, in most Indigenous nations of the Americas, the colder months meant the work is mostly over and the celebrations begin in order to see the people through the long, dark months. Even though we now have modern conveniences, traditional people still keep the cycles of the year of their ancestors and practice their traditions just as they have always done. Ah, I see you have the gift I suggested you bring Grandma in order to honor her and her nation's traditions--thank you! That beautiful blanket you brought will be put to good use for whomever in her community needs one. sure is cold this time of year, and I'm glad to see you dressed comfortably, but respectfully, because we will be up for hours listening intently to stories that have been told for centuries! Just like people dress well for an event they value, dressing respectfully to attend a traditional gathering is important--it's not a sports event or the gym! Come on! We are almost to her very traditional home where her medicine and ancient objects from her nation are kept. Look, here we are at last...I'm so excited!

b2ap3_thumbnail_p2082865628-3.jpgWhere is this traditional gathering? In the deep, secret woods? In a hogan? A teepee? In the long forgotten past? Nope, you're smart not to be fooled by my tricky questions.This ancient storytelling gathering a Brooklyn apartment, 31st floor! Or maybe we are walking through the wide streets of Los Angeles to Grandma's bungalow with a palm tree out front and dogs barking in the alley! Or maybe we are in Texas or in St. Paul, Minnesota. No matter the location, if an Indigenous traditional Elder is there telling the stories of her people that have been passed down to her from her Elders, you can be assured you are getting the "real thing"! Just because most Native stories are not written in a book by an anthropologist doesn't mean they don't exist--why would they need to be in a book anyway? Native people don't have to read their own stories in books--they have their own storytellers to do that, right? You and I are the ones who need books to learn about Native people, not them (well, mostly, though sometimes books and CDs with factual information are very handy). Here is an example of a great CD on storytelling:b2ap3_thumbnail_Hummingbird---Album-Cover-4.jpg

Now, let's get a cup of this warm Sagebush tea and some Pepperidge Farm cookies (Grandma is also a CPA at a large corporation and doesn't have time to bake for this size of a gathering this close to the holidays!). I feel so honored to be included in this gathering because I am not from her nation, just like you, my friends, but she has invited us because we live in this community and she is taking us in--that's what many Native Elders do. This is the meaning of "communal ethics", the founding principle and value of most all Native American nations: We are Relatives with one another, even the people we don't like and who are cruel to us...yep, ALL of us are relatives.

OK, Grandma is taking her seat in the place of honor in the circle--what gorgeous beadwork she is wearing. It matches her Nordstrom slippers perfectly! But she's not having Sagebush tea like us; instead, she has a big mug of Double Espresso Mocha with frothed Almond Milk (dairy allergy, I guess). Shhhh! She's beginning...a young man in the circle is playing a flute while a young woman offers the prayers in her Native language. I can't understand a word of this, but feel so humbled and blessed to be Grandma begins.b2ap3_thumbnail_cd0b437c1706e6ef7f9678ed8ab65f0b.jpg

"In the beginning there were only the animals, oceans, land, and plants. There were no people here in this world. Then we Elder siblings were made from the mind of Woman. We are the Original people, the Native Americans, and we were charged with the responsibility to care for this holy world. When our younger siblings, the Europeans, arrived, they were ignorant about how to live here on Turtle Island. They did not listen to us, but now they have begun to lean forward and try to discern our words. They have pained us considerably, but we are relatives, their Elder siblings, and we try to teach them to turn their destruction and empire away. This is why I have invited all of you here tonight--the thousands, no, millions, of my relatives to this teaching circle. I have something to tell you: we belong to each other. The animals are waiting for you to awaken from the deep sleep of ignorance and hear them. Mother Earth is waiting. It is time, younger siblings, for you to see that you have the power to call the story of destruction back. Wake up! Call it back! Beautiful relatives, please wake up!"b2ap3_thumbnail_Willamette-Speaks-event-poster.jpg

I started crying when she said this, and I see the tears running down your face as well. We can do this! We were called to hear this message and to be in this place tonight. Let us renew our commitment to caring for the Earth, for using our power and voices to demand the protection of Indigenous sovereignty and lands, to use our vast hearts to love one another, always. I know we can do this because we were all made from the mind of Woman and the clay of this holy earth. Those memories cannot be erased. Our Ancestors believe in us so deeply. Let us take their hands and allow them to make us strong with their wisdom. Together, this world is going to be OK. I know that is true because we will never give up until it actually is. 

Thank you for coming to the story circle tonight, and for listening all year through. In solidarity, gratitude, and peace to you all, Dr. Mays b2ap3_thumbnail_2015.11-NISA-Flyer-02.jpg

Last modified on
Dr. Mays is a professional writer with a doctoral degree in Native American Studies who has taught at the college level for nearly two decades. She is committed to educating about Indigenous cultures, especially about practices that specifically relate to women, in order to raise awareness about current issues in Indian Country, dissolve stereotypes, and create healing among all communities.


Additional information