Storytelling. It’s the core of so many cultures, the essence of so many people. It’s meant to entertain us during celebrations, to teach us during times of confusion, to inform us of what’s to come, and to remind us of what once was.
I took a class in Native American storytelling when I was in college. Here’s a group of people that prides itself on its storytelling abilities, and rightfully so. Many tribes have members who are “the storytellers.” These are the keepers of all the stories…the wise ones.
This week I read three books of stories like this…the stories that define a people. Each one is a collection of stories, both personal and traditional, that helps build the history of these ancient people.
While each one reads fairly quickly, the reader can’t help but slow down and enjoy each story for what it is: a lesson. Gather your children, family, friends, and read these stories out loud. Act them out. Most, if not all, of these stories are meant to be read out loud. Unlock them from the page. Give them life and teach someone, teach yourself, something new.
LIES TO LIVE BY
By Lois Beardslee
The best way I can describe this book is to say that it’s like sitting down to dinner with Lois Beardslee and listening to her tell you stories about her people…in her own way. Lies to Live By is a collection of ancient Anishnabe (Ojibwe) wisdom told from the perspective of this colorful and lovely author. Her writing style is so comfortable, so relaxed, that it feels as if she’s sitting there with you, telling you about her day.
As casual as the writing may be, Beardslee does not forget to instill the traditional wisdom of these ancient tales. The lessons are still the same; she just takes us on a more “updated” path to get there.
Lies to Live By is required reading for anyone who decides to take on a Native American minor at Northern Michigan University. It’s one of the first books you read in the program and much of the introductory class is spent discussing this book. If you are a fan of Native literature or enjoy the lessons taught by Native American storytelling, I highly suggest that you add Lies to Live By to your collection. It’s one of those books that may have the potential to completely change your life.
NATIVE AMERICAN STORIES
By Joseph Bruchac
These are the real stories. These are the stories that give reason to everything from creation to the changing of the seasons. These are the stories that answer “why do…” and “how come…”. The stories that teach.
Drawn from various Native cultures of North America, Native American Stories uses stories from the Zuni, Hopi, Cherokee, Inuit, and many other tribes, to teach us about Mother Earth, Father Sun, and how we’re all brothers and sisters with the animals. These stories weave together to pass on the lesson that we, as humans, are entrusted with a very important mission: to maintain natural balance and take care of the Earth.
When I was in college, most of this book was read while the class sat in a circle. We went around the room and each read a story out loud, which made it all the more interesting. These stories are meant to be orated. They are living things that have to be given a voice. Read Native American Stories outside with your family and children. Get them involved in the storytelling and help teach them how important and crucial it is that they help save the Earth. The time is now.
IN THE SACRED MANNER I LIVE: NATIVE AMERICAN WISDOM
Edited by Neil Philip
“To live in a sacred manner is to live with respect for the environment, for the community, and for oneself. It is a way of looking at life that was shared by all the Indian nations.”
This book is raw power. As if the poetry and speeches weren’t enough to tear my heart out, they had to add beautiful and heartbreaking images to the mix. TISSUE!!
In the Sacred Manner I Live is a gorgeous book of Native wisdom, poetry, art, prayers, and speeches. Through the words of famous chiefs and leaders, we hear their views on war and peace, teachings, betrayal, life and death, and much more. It’s a haunting look into the way life once was…and what’s to come if things don’t change now.
In their honest simplicity, the words of these various leaders beg the reader to consider changing their ways, helping when they can, and doing their best to improve the situation today so our children may live in a better world. This is the raw wisdom of the Native people. If you’re going to read any of these three books, read this one.
Lies to Live By: If you live in or have traveled in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, read it. Every story in this collection takes place in the UP…and probably in locations you may know and love.
Native American Stories: Unless you’re a fan of Native lit, I’d say SHELF IT. If you’re interested in Native lit, this is a great one to start with. It will give you a good idea of how many of the stories are laid out.
In the Sacred Manner I Live: READ IT. Just do it. I bet your views on at least one thing will change after you read the book.
NEXT WEEK: Next week is as much a surprise to you as it is to me…because I haven’t had time to pick a book yet! That shall be my weekend project.
I hope all of you have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday!
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.