Thursday, August 16, 2007

Native American Bedtime Stories

The Elders Speak (Spoken Words)
Gourd Woman & Eagle Heart
My Relatives Say (Spoken Word)
Mary Louise Defender Wilson (Gourd Woman)

This review is from Cranky Crow Whole Music

Native Americans as well as, traditional storytellers call their stories teachings. These teachings are for people of all ages. Children who are learning the ways of the world, learn to be courteous, respect their elders and help their parents. They learn how to be honorable people in their community. Adults that listen to these stories, relearn childhood lessons or glean new wisdom to help them master their spiritual and material lives.

A talented storyteller will create new worlds for their listeners to enter and to experience. The storytelling experience is light-years away from any program that appears on television. A listener must create their own images and take to heart the lessons presented in the stories. It is interactive.

While there are numerous talented Native American storytellers from all over the Americas, this review will focus on Native American elders Gourd Woman (Mary Louise Defender Wilson) and Eagle Heart (Francis Cree). They represent Dakotah/Hidatsa and Ojibway respectively. Both elders began their storytelling in their youth and have over the years mastered and won awards for their storytelling talent. Both storytellers have enriched the lives of the people in their communities and beyond. Anyone can go to the store and pick up these CDs and walk away slightly changed or in some cases, greatly altered.

The 1999 recording, The Elders Speak, featuring both Gourd Woman and Eagle Heart features a collection of legends, mostly dating back to another time and place with the exception of, Holy Spring which only dates back to 1910. Both storytellers perform an introduction to help listeners to enter in the world of legends. Now, when I use the word, legend, I am not referring to fictional stories. Native Americans believe that the events in these legends did take place and we must respect that. In other words, we are not talking Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, but actual legends that were handed down over time.

This particular recording features, the Ojibway creation story, Sky Woman and the Great Flood, the Dakotah legend The Powerful Lake, a white buffalo legend (I've heard several different legends) the Dakotah The Spiderman and the Giant (a trickster story) and others.

My favorite story told by Gourd Woman is The Woman Who Turned Herself to Stone. In this story a young girl is different than other children. She is an enchanted one that loves the beauty of the natural world. She was not put on the earth to marry, have children and live the traditional life so she turns herself into stone. That way, she can always be near her beloved creatures. If only Saint Francesco had known of that legend...

The 2001 recording, My Relatives Say features only Gourd Woman. This CD is an absolute treasure chest for folks who enjoy Native American stories. Most of the stories are animal legends, but there is also the star who desires to be close to humanity so it hides out in a cottonwood tree. We learn of a proud warrior who is turned into a snake and then a river because he abused his gifts. A heron who decides not to fly south for the winter almost perishes but is saved by the bird community, a fawn is given spots and its scent is removed by Wind who takes pity on its vulnerable state and the origins of the flute is also communicated on this recording.

Gourd Woman (Mary Louise Defender Wilson) speaks in a clear voice and with a great deal of authority about her subjects. I just want to sit cross leg on the floor and listen to her tell stories. Who needs TV? (Personally, I never watch TV). If you want good bedtime stories, then check out Native American oral storytelling tradition. Makoche

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