Event Offers Peek into Tribal Culture

The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA), March 7, 2006


The theme of this year’s Southern California Indian Storytelling Festival is “Bridging the Pacific with Story & Song,” and the event featured young and old storytellers from several tribes, including the Cahuilla, Kumeyaay, Chumash, Yokuts, Serrano, and Ohlone, as well as Owana Salaza, a Hawaiian who is well-versed in his native history and music. There was also an appearance by the Desert Cahuilla Bird Singers.

“Indian storytelling is undergoing a renaissance,” said Kat High, of Topanga, a member of the Hupa tribe and an adviser to the California Indian Storytelling Association.

“There’s a lot of interest in storytelling right now ,” said High. “Events like this get young people involved and encourage elders to tell the stories they learned as youngsters.”

While Indian language, culture and storytelling are undergoing a renaissance, High explains that it’s a slow process. One problem is that Indian languages nearly died out after years of government attempts to squelch them. For example, Indians were forbidden by law to practice their native religions until 1979. Along with that, culture and traditions suffered.

By 1990, some Indian languages were confined to a handful of people. That’s changing as younger people, like Stan Rodriguez, revive the old customs. Rodriguez is a Kumeyaay from the Santa Isabel Reservation in San Diego County who has been studying Kumeyaay for about four years and speaks several dialects.


Subjects Covered: diversity training, personal storytelling, storytelling festivals

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