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04/19/12 Property of CaladriaNapea Video 6: We Speak Oral Narratives I.

Oral narratives are validated by opposing western ideals of literacy and language, but that is something which could be done through writing. However, it is important that oral narratives remain oral and in their original Native American languages. II. Translated oral narratives often lose the value and meaning of the original American Indian language. a. Just how literally are we expected to take the adventures of these animals? Are the plots merely vehicles for various lessons, rather than accounts of events that we really believed in? Thus, it has become crucially important in the study of Native American narratives to work with the few remaining speakers of the hundreds of aboriginal languages and dialects of the continent, and to uncover through close linguistic and ethnographic analysis the layers of meaning that the stories contain. (Brunvand 174) b. So the language was um, pretty, pretty important. You know, in our language we can say something, you know like, a couple words we can explain a whole, a whole story, almost, or a paragraph. The language real hard to learn. (Begay) III. Transcribed oral narratives become truncated and changed through either the authors wishes or merely the constraints of the written format. a. The stories have simply been put into a familiar idiom, with restraint and good taste, and in some cases purged of the insistent repetitions and cluttering details

that primitive people often stuff into their stories for ulterior purposes. (Paredes and Bauman 114). IV. Through oral narratives spoken in often, but not always, tribal language, the community is knit together through the act of listening, attending to the narrative, and experiencing their own language and traditions. Tied to this is that an integral part of oral narratives is the performance of the narrator and the tradition of the elder-narrator. a. Performance is at the core of the oral tradition; therefore the meaning of a linguistic expression is not created just by the linguistic expression on its own. [ . . . ] Often there is a close relationship between the work, the writer, and a traditional community. (Porter and Roemer 43) b. Native American cultures, to the contrary, place emphasis on old age being a time of wisdom and honor and the old are seen as living treasures. Because it is the elders who are entrusted with the primary responsibility of sharing those traditions with the youngfor in the circle of life, the olds and the young are the closest togetherit was often from elderly individuals that Europeans heard those stories [ . . . ] Unless one understands this cultural difference, one is not going to understand the nature of the Native American oral tradition. It is held most strongly by the old, but it is usually not concentrated in a single person. (Birch and Heckler 95) V. While translated and transcribed oral narratives are useful for study by westernized society, especially those trying to gain a greater insight into the Native American community, they do not provide the same sense of community the original format provides for Native Americans.

a. The understanding of the creative power of language, coupled with the various techniques used by storytellers, all coalesce to help encourage the listeners of the stories to become participants within them, traveling the same trails alongside salmon, Coyote, or Burnt Face. (Biolsi 164) VI. The oral narrative format is valuable, in its own right. It is not merely a less advanced form of writing. Listening, as a community, to the wisdom of a speaker bonds together in a way the written word often cannot. a. For most Native Americans, language is thought of not simply as a medium of information but also as a creative force (Witherspoon). For many tribes, prayers are not so much petitions as they are articulations of a desired condition. The oral presentation of a coyote story causes the listeners to engage vicariously in behavior they are culturally expected to avoid. Performance of a mythoften accompanying a ritual or a healing ceremonyallows the audience to reexperience a sacred event or process. The oral performance of a narrative, then, and not the hypothetical text of it or the later printed fossil of it, is the central feature of Native American oral tradition. (Foley 160) b. Traditional Native American word concepts move far beyond describing, communicating, and explaining to encompass generative powers of creating and interconnecting. (Porter and Roemer 16)

Works Cited: Begay, Andrew. "An Oral Narrative of Traditional Education and Its History." Youtube. 1. University of Chicago, 2011. Web. 04/23/12. Biolsi, Thomas, ed. A Companion to the Anthropology of American Indians. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Print. Birch, Carol L. and Melissa A. Heckler, eds. Who Says? Essays on Pivotal Issues in Contemporary Storytelling. Little Rock: August House Publishers, Inc., 1996. Print. Brunvand, Jan Harold, The Study of American Folkore: An Introduction. 4th ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998. Print. Paredes, America and Richard Bauman, Toward New Perspectives in Folklore. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972. Print. Porter, Joy, and Kenneth M. Roemer, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print.