Telling stories can revive our spirits and transform our perceptions of the world. Even when a story is not believable, it can contain elements that speak to the human experience. This point is made by Tchin, an award winning Blackfoot and Aragansett artist and story teller from Norfolk, Virginia. Tchin shared this story with me about the creation of autumn, and then told me about the psychological healing such a story can promote:
"In traditional Native American culture, adolescent males and females are not allowed to be alone together. A young man and young woman never see each other unless the young woman is chaperoned. Her aunts, her sister, her mother, or someone else is always with her.
"Parents come together, at the right time of year, when the moon is in correct part of the sky, and plan a hoop dance. The hoop dance is where all the eligible young people come together to be introduced. They learn about the clans of the other people, and about who they can marry as well as which marriages are taboo. People dance, and frequently change partners. This way, everyone gets to be introduced to each other.
"During this hoop dance, the parents noticed one couple that did not change partners. In fact, they even heard some of the conversation. The young lady was saying that she worked in her mother's fields during the day. And the young man said that his uncle was teaching him to play the flute.
"The next day, the young man went down to the field with his flute and played a song. People hearing the flute didn't know what it was. They would say, "Listen to that sound blowing through the trees. I wonder what it is.' But the young lady knew it was the young man playing the flute for her. It made her so happy that her heart jumped.
"She wanted to send him a message, so, she went to a tree, and asked the tree for a leaf. After receiving that gift, she placed it into a stream. The stream took the message down to where the young man was playing. He knew it was from the young lady. It made him so happy that his heart jumped. He picked up the leaf, and went home.
"Day after day, the young man would go down to the stream and play his flute. And day after day, she would go to the tree, ask for a leaf, receive that gift, and place it into the stream, where it would travel to the young man. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, their love for each other grew strong and powerful, even though they never spoke a word to each other.
"Then one day, the young man's uncle came to him and said, 'Young man, it is time that you stopped fooling around down by the stream, and that you learned how to make a living. I'm going to take you out and teach you how to hunt.' It made the young man really happy to know that he would learn how to make a living by hunting. If he learned this, he could take his place in the village. If he could make a living, he could get married. And he knew with whom he wished to marry. So, with great joy and expectations he went out to learn how to make a living.
"Day after day, the young lady would work in the fields of her mother, and not hear the flute of the young man. She wondered why he no longer played for her. Maybe he had to help his aunt. Maybe he had to do something for his uncle. He had to help the elders. He had more important things to do. As days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, she exhausted all the possible reasons why he could not come and play. And after all of these reasons were exhausted, she came to the thought that he might be playing his flute for some other woman. When this thought came to her, a great pain stabbed her in her heart causing her to fall to the ground. Her parents, who loved her strongly, called to all the medicine people to doctor their daughter. But even in those days, people did not know how to heal a broken heart.
"After many months, the young man came back, very much a new person, with new muscles, and a joyful outlook on life. He ran down to the stream and began to play his flute. But no leaf flowed downstream. At first, he thought to himself, 'It's too late in the day. Maybe all the people have gone home.' Then, as he was walking back to the village, he saw the young lady's brother. It made him happy and they talked about all kinds of things that happened to him while he was learning to hunt.
"Eventually, he got around to asking the brother, 'How is your sister?" The young brother bowed his head and said, 'I guess you have been gone for a long time because they placed my sister over there in the rock.' When the young flute player heard what had happened to the young lady, the pain stabbed his heart so great that he fell to the ground.
"The flute player was in tears, saying, "Please take me to where they placed your sister." The young brother agreed, and they walked the distance to the rock, where she was. He left the young flute player there never ever to see him again.
"The young man took out his flute and played a song. Then something miraculous happened because, you see, love is strong, and true love is ever lasting. As that young flute player played his song, all the leaves on all the trees began to fall.
"You know that I am telling you a true story, and you can prove the truth of this story telling to yourself because around October and November, if you were to go out, you could look at the trees, and you could see that when you look around, all the leaves on all the trees start to fall. This is because love is strong and powerful. Now you know why all the leaves fall off all the trees at that time of year."
|Tchin on Story Telling|
|Jamie Sams on Story Telling|
|Native Americans Online|