Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dovie Thomason: Lakota/Kiowa-Apache Storyteller

I spent much of yesterday with Dovie Thomason. She was at UIUC's Spurlock Museum for it's annual storytelling event.

I'd be willing to bet that most people---when they think of Native stories---think of stories about animals. That isn't a bad thing, but it isn't the only kind of story Native people tell.

Recently, Dovie is telling a very different story.

You can get her Lessons from the Animal People, or her Fireside Tales: More Lessons from the Animal People, or Wopila, a Giveaway: Lakota Stories from Oyate.

You can invite her to your school, or your college, or city, or performing arts center, to tell the stories of the Animal People.

But, consider inviting her to tell the story she told here yesterday: The Spirit Survives: The Boarding School Experience, Then and Now.

As she started, she said "There are some stories you don't want to tell your children. And, there are some you have to."

The story she's telling is among the too-many dark episodes in U.S. history about the ways this country has treated American Indians... It is among the stories that are completely left out of textbooks used in elementary or high school.

It is about Carlisle Indian Industrial School, established in 1879. The school was designed to "Kill the Indian, Save the Man." In her story, she talks about being at Carlisle a few years ago, with her daughter, standing in the cemetery, reading the headstones there. Headstones of children who were at that school.

To get in touch with Dovie, write to her at this address:
Dovie Thomason
P.O. Box 6351
Harrisburg, PA 17112

1 comment:

jpm said...

We also heard Dovie Thomason's story of boarding school experiences and legacies. She is a wonderful teller, engaging and in tune with the audience. If I were still teaching children, she's probably the first person I'd invite to come and share stories in the classroom (or auditorium). Her opening statement, about the stories you tell or don't tell to children, resonates POWERFULLY with me as a parent, grandparent, and one-time early childhood educator -- and she kept coming back to it throughout the time she spoke. One of the things she said was that often a "trickster" type story (for example, featuring a protagonist like Coyote, Raven, Iktomi) can start to do the job of explaining those things (e.g., historical facts) you don't feel ready to tell. Then when the child is older, the Facts can come out, and in a sense the trickster story might have prepared the child for the whole story.

After meeting Dovie, I revisited her essay, "A Cultural Encounter" in The Broken Flute. It's about her experience with meeting a Noted Children's Author who is known for borrowing traditional tales from cultures not his/her own -- and who makes a pretty good living from that practice. In Dovie's essay, as in her storytelling, she is straightforward and accessible, and I believe it would do a lot of people good to hear her.