Native American storytelling is not just about telling stories for the sake of entertaining. Native American stories often do entertain. But, more often than not, Native American storytelling is a means for handing down cultural meaning and understanding. Native American storytelling helps to build a common sense of identity and teaches people about the laws that govern their behavior.
Native American Story Telling Helps to Educate People
Stories are meant to bind past and present and to come alive each time they are told. They are magical and they are meaningful.
Stories told in the Columbia River / Plateau tradition often feature Coyote, otherwise known as the Trickster. Coyote’s “tricks” however, are not just for fun. More often than not, Coyote stories educate people about Creation and about the way people should live. Sometimes Coyote behaves well and so he serves as a positive model for people, and sometimes he behaves badly, and shows people what they should not do.
Historically, Native American storytelling was reserved for the winter, when no other work could be done. Winter was the time for resting, for gathering around the fire, and for educating young people about the natural laws that governed the behavior of people, animals, and plants. Usually, the message in the story is left for the person hearing to determine.
Native American Legends of the Columbia River People: Books of Interest
If you’re interested in learning more about the legends of the Columbia River people, look into one or all of these books:
- Grandmother, Grandfather and Old Wolf
- Indian Legends of the Pacific Northwest
- Coyote Was Going There