Re-telling One's Own: an outline


With the world prepared and the landscape embedded with the "bones" - the tamálwit, the hnkhwelkhwlnet, and the miyp, as well as the spiritual animation, wéyekin/súumesh/baaxpée by the First People (e.g., Salmon, Coyote, Sedna, Karora, Rabbit and Jackrabbit, Chief Child of the Yellowroot), the world is made ready for the Human Peoples.  How then is the world perpetuated, continued in a balanced and healthy manner for all kinsmen?

The Swirling (a reflective write) 


Story Texts:  Lawrence Apria re-tells: "Four Smokes" (Schitsu'umsh; from Stories That Make the World pp.15-20 and streaming video L3)  -   "Coyote and the Green Spot:  (Schitsu'umsh; from Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane pp. 134-44 and streaming video L3),    and "Coyote and the Rock Monster" (Schitsu'umsh; from Stories That Make the World pp. 71-75 and Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane pp. 127-31 and streaming video L3  

Horace Axtell re-tells "Coyote and the Monster" including one version in Nez Perce (streaming video L3)

William Burke's "Salmon Always Goes Up River" (Carry Forth the Stories pp. 59-82)

(For a free version


1. Baaeechichiwaau - "re-telling one’s own" (Apsáalooke, referring to the act of telling a story, and of good things happening to someone).  Or Titwatí∙sa, “re-telling my stories” (Nez Perce) and 'me'y'mi'y'm, "telling stories" (Schitsu'umsh).   The continuation and perpetuation of the Indian way of life and of heart knowledge for the future generations is through the re-telling and re-enacting out of the oral traditions.

Acts of repeating (returning, re-membering)              Acts of doing (praxis/practice)


2. THE ORAL TRADITIONS include the narrative stories of the Animal People, but also the dancing and regalia worn during a ceremony, ritual behaviors of all kinds, and the drum and songs sung during that ceremony,  architectural and aesthetic expressions of all kinds,  language itself, among other expressions.  

Thus many forms of the act of Baaeechichiwaau - "re-telling one’s own, of re-telling of the perennial stories.

We will explore but one, albeit, pivotal and essential form, narrative storytelling.




3.THE CHALLENGE FOR US: Language and Translation - "something always gets lost in translation." 

Examples of Issues: deictics and landscape placement (Tom),   repetitions,   Apsáalooke "it is said" for each verse suffix,   Schitsu'umsh "end of the trail,"    the subtle humor,   nuanced poetic rhythm,    to be "written down at all"  -  and issues of literacy vs. orality and a participatory "reader."  

Need to attempt to return to as close to the original native retelling text.  

Examples: Couple Befriended by the Moon (Apsáalooke and the suffix 'tsəruk - "it is said") or  Coyote and His Daughter (interlinear text with free translation; compare with Phinney's Coyote and the Shadow People).    Led me to write Stories That Make the World for language arts teachers/students Coeur d'Alene School District (acknowledge these constraints and going to story tellers still anchored in oral traditions and their language, who could make the translations).  

Hence our possible sources for Learning Activity C - bibliography.

Hence  (alternative format/means of retaining indigenous content)


4.  THE HOW IT IS RE-TOLD - the means of re-telling.   Idiosyncrasy and unique differing styles of re-telling - each storyteller has particular skills and techniques unique to him or her, all used successfully.  

Examples: Tom Yellowtail (Apsáalooke), Agnes Vanderburg (Bitterroot Salish), Lawrence Aripa (Schitsu'umsh), Mari Watters (Nimíipuu), and Cliff SiJohn (Schitsu'umsh).  

And each of you have those gifts, unique to each, though sometimes not fully used.


In giving voice to the First Peoples and running with the Coyote, consider the example of the following processes in the act of storytelling:             Story Text: Muskrat Man (Inuit)    


 Goals of Storyteller and Story-listener:   ???  




Goals of the storyteller is to 1.  keep all the "bones" of the story intact - not adding nor deleting, not inventing new bones - "story is like a person, with a skeleton, muscle and flesh. . . you have to keep all the bones together; you can't add new ones or take away some . . . they all have to be there" (Jeannette Whitford Landscape p. 191). 

And 2. bring the listeners of the story, the audience, into the story as participants, not observes of the story, render story accessible. - "when you tell the story, you've gotta go inside and become the Coyote, or the Mole.  Feel it as they feel it.  And tell the story with heart" (Cliff SiJohn Landscape p. 191).   So you have to add a little living flesh and muscle to the bones, animate the skeleton, bring the "person" back to life, with your storytelling techniques, your words and unique idiosyncrasies.




Goals of the listener is to: 1. become a participant of the story, not an observer, outside the story -"stories are like canoes, you untie them when you start out, are told to stay on course when wonder off, and then tie the story up when you finish for the night," . . .  "everyone has to paddle the canoe if the canoe is to travel the rivers and you are to be able to explore the landscape of the First Peoples and discover the 'gifts' embedded within" (Mary Eyley Stories p. 172)  or Schitsu'umsh use of "end of the trail," at conclusion of re-telling, having traveled somewhere.     Stories only come alive, are real and true, when all participate and contribute - story is an event of interaction.

And 2. and while traveling in the story, be "attentive" to what "huckleberry gifts" may await, to be "revealed," to be "discovered"  - "stories are what we explore with" (Vic Charlo Stories p. 172).




Question (reflective write):  What is the shared single attribute and skill necessary that facilitate these sorts of interactive communications?  

Of keeping all the bones intact, of re-telling of the differing and unique characters of Coyote or Salmon, of knowing your audience and sensing each person's degree of participation,  of having the First Peoples come alive and swirl with you, of actively and deeply listening to another.

And I wonder if not all effective forms of communications, via phone, social media, conversation, written, do not have these same elemental dynamics and attributes ? ? ? 

  interactive communications





Three means/techniques/processes to use/consider and apply to accomplish these goals:  


1. Techniques of Tellingdeictics (here, there, place) and landscape placement,     voice (intonation, pauses, etc.),    body language and hand gesturing, e.g., Grandpa,    terse use of descriptive words (what does Coyote or Salmon look like?  Archie Phinney, Nimíipuu, in the 1930s said there was none and also lamented that even then few elders who were accomplished storytellers),     repetition (sacred numbers and key points; a mnemonic device),    re-membered (never memorized) and e.g., Susie's re-tellings with Grandpa,     linked with activities of the seasons or events, e.g., Arlee and Sweat,     participant acknowledgement - ée  or hey or i..' or index finger signal (all meaning "yes") e.g., Grandpa's length in retelling the story of traveling to Europe.                            

–  It is as if each storytelling is add his or her own clothing (fiber, muscle, tissue) to the perennial bones, to bring them alive for each audience.    While the clothing worn on a story, placed on it by differing story tellers, and the resulting story, may differ in subtle and overt ways (many differing styles and techniques used), if the storytellers are "true to the bones," all the versions will convene the same bones and have the ultimate same effect. 

Examples:  Buffalo or Little People adopting a lost boy be Mable and Sonny Pretty On Top (identical bones).      Mari Waters and the Lakota story - "let's see if I got it." (identical bones and remembering).      Cheyenne and Crow Graduate students, note taking and the exam (remembering).       Basil White's "The Animals and the Sea Monster" retelling in 1991 (Stories pp.196 - 213) and the Mission Joe's account in 1914 (Boas and Chamberlin 1918: 72-83) (identical bones and remembering)


2. Orality and Literacy -  acknowledging the very nature of the oral dynamic and dimension, and its unique power                    

Physiological experience - orality: involuntary unified in event, transitory process;  literacy: objectified and separated concreteness  e.g., Sumerian cuneiform

Meaning/Knowledge - orality: contextualized - terse (role of listener), lack function words (no "ands," "buts," "ors," and listener must connect), personal pronouns (no "he," "she," "it"), intonation and body language (listener connects); literacy: formalized and decontextualized (all is connected and explicit; no listener role)

Organized/Stored - orality: embedded in experiences, in everyday activities (worn, used, lived in, etc); literacy: non-experiential (in books, computers, iPads)

Example:  in Stories That Make the World and Landscape Traveled by Coyote and Crane - attempt to retain dynamics and structures of oral nuances in this literacy-based text, including literal transcription, retain repetitions, landscape anchoring and  deictics, note pauses with length of dot ellipses,  emphasized words with italics,  include a few key hand and body gestures, all in poetic style to retain pacing and rhythm, and ask reader to have someone else read the story aloud to them - as an event unfolding the reader no longer setting the pace.     In both instances of both Lawrence Aripa (Schitsu'umsh) and Tom Yellowtail's (Apsáalooke) narratives, relatives who were so familiar with their re-tellings, commented, "I can clearly hear his voice when I read his stories."

3. Power in Words - one of the first lessons: goodbye (diiawákaawik - "see you later"),    an Indian name (Kw'lkwi'l Sqqi),    reluctance in discussing an illness,    a wow publically spoken,    dasshússua - "breaking with the mouth"   

- the spoken word threads woven into a powerfully designed tapestry of a story, becoming the world  -  "stories that make the world"

– acknowledging the special understanding and power that words themselves can have when properly used.    Story Text: Dine Creation Account


All these three processes and factors coalesce to transform the listener into a participant in the Creation Time and Place ("Dreamtime" and "Eternal Time"). 

You are in the canoe, traveling the territory of what is most real.   This transitory intersection of those participating is all at once  "running with the Coyote and Chipmunk"

Reflective Write (why continue telling?)

Reflective Write (two realities?)


 Story Text: Two Coyotes (Niimíipuu; Stories That Make the World pp. 186-88). 


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - (ANTH 329 Return) - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -







5.  THE FUNTION and ROLE.  The oral traditions are thus at once:





1) didactic, having an educational/teaching role, passing on pragmatic skills, teaching lessons, and disseminating identities.   Story Text: Rabbit and Jack Rabbit


2) have an entertaining function, bringing a smile or a tear and rendering the difficult times less so, as Vic Charlo said, “helping lighten the load and make things more accessible.”   Story Texts:  BIA official and handkerchief,    "first presidential convention,"     Leroy Seth humor,    and spontaneity


3) perpetuate the world.  Run with the Coyote, renewing the creation of the world.    Story Texts:   the Blue of Lake Coeur d'Alene,     Water drawn from the Sundance Center Pole,           the Two Bullets

"Euro-American audiences are said to suspend disbelief in watching a play, while Navajos can be said to intensify their sense of reality by watching Mái -Coyote" (Barre Toelkin and Tacheeni Scott from Stories . . .  p. 176).     It is never a matter of a story attempting to suspend disbelief, as when viewing a Shakespearian play, but of making the world real and actual.

-  for the Western Apache, "selfhood and placehood are completely interwoven"  (Basso)       wete·pe·m'e·wes  "I am of the land" (Nimíipuu)    

- "It is to swirl with Chipmunk and Coyote"  (Cliff SiJohn)   

- Cabin Stories   and  meaning of  "stories that make the world" 




6.  The EFFCACY, the HOW.  This all works because:    These oral traditions (in their varied fomrs) are configurations of phenomena, spatially and temporarily interconnected (ashammaléaxia "as driftwood loges"; chnis-teem-ilqwes "I am part of all"; monism; not dualism) and endowed with "medicine" (súumesh; spiritual power; snq-hepi-wes "where the spirit lives, from horizon to horizon").    Thus when these human manipulated expressions (symbols in oral traditions and ceremonial activities) of the Creator and Animal People are properly brought forth, acted out in behavior, i.e., aligned with the perennial, archetypal "bones" of the Creation time (the tamálwit, the hnkhwelkhwlnet, and the miyp),     so too are their inherent transformative powers brought forth,   to renew, perpetuate and heal.     

An hierophany - "a shining through of the sacred" is occurring (Mircea Eliade in "Carry Forth the Stories").  When the narrative, song, ritual act, dance, regalia, art forms are aligned with the "bones" of the perennial sacred, a shining through occurs, an hierophany

The Swirling  with Chipmunk and Coyote (Cliff SiJohn).       

"If all these Great Stories were Told, Great Stories will Come" (Tom Yellowtail)     

A transforming, transitory intersection of those participating


Example: My re-telling of the Dine Emergence Story before some 80 students in 1979.

Example: Dine (Navajo) Healing Ceremony (Creation Narrative and Drypainting) and Video: Billy Yellow (18 min.; introduced by anthropologist David Mayberry-Lewis, as part of his Millennium Project, 1992; aligning the colorful and geometric symbols of the drypainting/sandpainting with the Hózhó beauty and harmony of the sacred creation time, the oral traditions of the Yei, the Holy Ones, such as Changing Woman and her children, then of ritually placing the child that is imbued with the Hocho disease and imbalance into the painting and the sands place upon the child, removing the Hocho and reinstating Hózhó and thus health.      From the internal spiritual balance comes an external material healing.

HENCE, in the act of re-telling Coyote’s story,      re-donning the regalia and re-dancing the dance,      re-sitting upon a dry painting,      re-using the Eagle Feathers,     re-fishing the Salmon,    re-gathering the Camas,     re-hunting the Deer,    or re-singing a súumesh song,     the oral traditions and their sacred symbols also perpetuate the world,     re-invigorating life-force and meaning back into the landscape and all of its varied beings - human, fish, animal, plant and rock.      The Creation time is re-traveled,    a camas field re-nurtured,    and an illness healed, re-balanced.  

Reality and the oral traditions are one and the same.  


hnkhwelkhwlnet:  phenomenal reality as the  transitory   intersection   of  those  participating (people, animal, spirit, i.e., storyteller, story participant, story animal peoples),  an event always in the making,   anchored to place-based teachings, the miyp,    and in so doing,     transforming that reality.  

Does this quintessential statement make sense yet?   Can you restate it in your own words?


Reality is THE Act of Baaeechichiwaau - "re-telling one’s own."


"Stories make the world,"      they are what is most real.      In re-telling the stories, reality is intensified (not a "suspending of disbelief" in reality) 

– Re-Consider the Blue of Lake Coeur d'Alene and the re-telling of the Coyote and the Rock oral tradition,     

is it not unlike the Water drawn from the Sundance Center Pole when prayers of song are properly aligned and given,        

or the Two Bullets drawn from the body of a young man when prayer of song are properly aligned and given?


– Consider "The Vital Act is the Act of Participation"     Who said this and what does it mean??   Implications for us all.


Reflect: are there multiple realities, mutually exclusive of each other, realities we can equally participate in at the same time? 



7.  WHAT IT DOES NOT DO.  The oral traditions, however, are not fundamentally explanatory in nature.  "Because Coyote did such and such, that is why . . . . . !

1.  Such would presuppose that the stories were inventions of human curiosity, created by man to explain what he could not understand, and thus not be creations of the First Peoples, i.e., accounts of their actions. 

2.  Such would presuppose that the stories are earnest but feeble attempts by pre-scientific minds to understand the world, but are inevitably fantasies and false, and certainly not what is most real and true.  

And 3. such would presuppose a separate world out there (Cartesian dualism) that needed explaining, and certainly not an interconnected phenomenal world within which one is a part.


8. POWER OF STORY.    The intersection of those participating.   If all these great stories were told, great stories will come!





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