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Storytelling Reflections, 2012

We would like to extend our gratitude to many of you for your help and participation in Saturday's 7th Annual Native Storytelling Conference. As always, it was a rich and memorable event, deeply connected to cultural preservation of traditional, ancient stories. Please click "read more" below to see this piece.

These stories, especially when told by traditional storytellers as they were at our gathering, have a way of stopping us in our tracks and teaching us to truly listen--in that old way of being completely present--so that we can hear something that is important to us. Our MC's for the day, Dan Wahpepah, R.E.D. founder/director, and Robert Greygrass, internationally acclaimed storyteller, consistently reminded the audience that "you could be anywhere else in the world, and you came here today to hear these stories. . ." also knowing "there is something in a story you will hear today that you needed to hear--something that speaks to you personally. . .that is the medicine we offer you."

Indeed, a bounty of good medicine was exchanged at our Storytelling Conference. Esther Stutzman, our featured storyteller, once again captivated us with traditional Kalapuya stories from her People--those gentle yet direct lessons about Coyote as he teaches us how not to be! Robert Greygrass, also filling in to MC, enveloped the audience in good humor, good teachings about why listening to stories is so important to us, and stories from his lineage and personal life journeys. Devon Strong brought modern day buffalo tales (or is ittails?!) to us from his buffalo ranch in Shasta County, teaching the importance of how Ceremonies passed down to him from the Lakota People have allowed him to raise his buffalo in the old way, sharing all the parts with the People for continued health and endurance. Dan Wahpepah shared his own Ojibwe stories of Asema and how the first tobacco plant came to his People, and then those hard-earned lessons from Winna Boozhoo. Emerson Joe, Dine (Navajo), brought another modern day/urban Indian story of his own fight for sovereignty, tribal rights and how that translated to a journey into jails and courtrooms that he triumphantly found his way through. Tom Smith once again blessed the Hall with by posting the sacred Veteran's Eagle Staff and giving us the history of how the Staff has evolved. Earl Hewitt, Modoc/Paiute, brought traditional stories of his People through enchanting tales, as well as sharing how important these stories have been for his own personal growth and the health of his family. Russell Beebe, Ojibwe wood carver and sculptor, spoke to the audience about the history of the prayer pole our community has been care-taking for seven years, also known as the downtown "We Are Here" sculpture, and how it is about to be moved to the SOU Hannon Library to reside safely--both inside the Library and inside our hearts--as a memorial to the indigenous People who once lived here. Philip Downey, of Lakota lineage, blessed our gathering with some personal stories of his path in life, along with sharing some beautiful, sacred songs. Aaron Ortega brought the gift of Aloha through Hawaiian love songs to end the storytelling. A perfect last performance to bring the Conference to a close.

The Bellview (Ashland) Grange 'housed' our event in usual Grange coziness, folks enjoyed a wonderful feast in the midst of our storytelling sessions, we hosted a lively raffle (in which our elder Tom Smith won the Pendelton blanket!) and array of vendors, including many abundant giveaways to our community, and last, but not least, Whistling Elk Singers gave us their Trail Song to ensure safe travels home.

We'd like to thank the following businesses and organizations for helping contribute to making our Storytelling Conference a success:

~Carefree Buffalo Store
~Northwest Seasonal Workers
~Food Angels
~McKenzie River Gathering Foundation
~Super 8 Medford
~Shop 'n Kart
~Ray's Food Place, Talent
~Ashland Food Co-op
~Marie Calendars
~Bellview Grange
~Jackson County Fuel Committee
~Flower of Life
~Wild Embers Press
~Jan Lyons
~Terry's Trading Post
~Nina Council
~Tasker Crow
~Wahpepah Graphix
~Robert Greygrass
~Whistling Elk Singers

Also, a big 'thank you' to all the storytellers mentioned and our vendors who donated to the raffle. A huge shout-out of appreciation to the folks who organized the raffle and giveaways for our storytellers and community. And to our kitchen, set-up, clean-up and hospitality crew--you are the core strength of our events! With the generous help and hard work from our volunteer 'worker-bee' crew, we are able to work together as a community to make these gatherings happen with harmony and love.

We're hoping to have some photos of the Conference shared with us soon to post on our website. If you were one of the resident photographers present, would you please send us some pictures?

Blessings to you all during these wintry days. We know it is a time for change. Thankfully, as indigenous community, we also know that the changes have been happening for a long time and one 'date' on a calendar will not change the work and responsibility we all have. Our elders, through the prophesies, have shared with us for many years that we are at the crossroads as people of earth, and that we need to change how we live with our relatives on earth. Many of the storytelling lessons received last Saturday contained that common theme--that we, as human beings, are not more important than our living relatives. As Esther Stutzman shared with us in one of her many poignant stories, people sometimes think they are smarter than our animal and plant relatives. Not so! We human beings need to honor our relatives and learn from them in order to survive the shifts on Mother Earth.

Great lessons taught through great stories. Thank you for sharing, for listening, for being our relatives~

Red Earth Descendants