Stories heat up Grand Village

Published 12:01 am Sunday, January 31, 2010

NATCHEZ — Sometimes, the message is in the medium, and Saturday several locals gathered at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians to make sure an old medium — American Indian storytelling — was preserved.

The event was the 25th Eleventh Moon Storytelling, an annual celebration of the storyteller in the American Indian culture, Grand Village Historian Becky Anderson said.

“(Indians) learned history, genealogy, even medicines through storytelling,” Anderson said. “Basically everything that we learned in school they learned through storytelling.”

In American Indian cultures, each group of Indians would usually have one great storyteller who traveled from village to village, and Anderson said this time of year would be when the storytelling tradition would be passed on.

“They did it during the winter because the rest of the time you had to be farming, hunting or taking care of the family,” she said. “There’s not much you can do when it’s cold.”

One way Saturday’s storytelling differed from Indian culture, however, was that the stories were told by several volunteers, including historians, librarians, teachers and actors.

“I draw a lot from Natchez Little Theater because actors are usually good storytellers,” Anderson said.

Some of the stories told at the Eleventh Moon event were gleaned from books and libraries at the Grand Village, and Anderson said the storytellers themselves collected other stories.

“A lot of the stories are from collections of tales that were collected by anthropologists,” she said. “We are very excited when we can find something that survived through the years from Natchez.”

Looking around at the hands-on exhibits in the Grand Village’s theater before the program began, Holden Shewbart could hardly resist darting from one table to the other, handling the different exhibits, which included rattling gourds and animal skins.

“He was very excited,” his mother, Cyndi Shewbart said. “He was asking what they used the squirrel skin for.”

Anyone who wants to volunteer at a future program at the Grand Village can contact Anderson at 601-446-6502.