by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation
Last Friday, I got to spend the day at the 35th Annual Denver March Powwow, and it counted as work! Out of all the new and interesting experiences I had (favorites include watching a Jingle Dress Dance competition and eating my first “Indian Taco” – yum!), the best part of my day was the three hours I sat in a cold little room, on a hard folding chair, and listened to the Powwow’s Storyteller Competition.
Winter is a traditional storytelling time for many cultures. The Fort Collins Museum has been very fortunate to work with Northern Ute elder and spiritual leader Clifford Duncan, who has consulted with us on several projects, including the Soapstone Prairie Oral History Project. In a recent interview, Mr. Duncan talked about winter storytelling:
“If you really look at, or listen, to a mythology or folklore story, they’re talking about people. They’re talking about how to conduct yourself. But Native Americans would say the animals, the coyote said this to the badger, the badger said this to that. The light, the fire was taken from this place, and here’s how this animal created this animal. It’s really a teaching mechanism that takes place in the winter, so that you can go on again in springtime and you live that summer again, and that’s what you’re doing.”
Stories are an important part of history. Author Chris Abani said, “Stories make the world in which we live… everything in the world is explained through story,” and my tenth grade history teacher went as far as to claim that history is just the stories we’ve remembered to write down.