Find out why the catfish has a flat head

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2011

NATCHEZ — Native Americans made storytelling into an art, even though they used it primarily out of necessity.

The 26th annual 11th Moon Storytelling at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians will continue the tradition Saturday of preserving the Native American art of storytelling.

The free event from 2 to 4 p.m. is a perfect for families to enjoy, especially those with children ages 9 and older, Grand Village historian Becky Anderson said.

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The Native American storytelling tradition was not just used as entertainment, Anderson said.

“(Storytelling) was their way of teaching why things are the way they are,” Anderson said.

Some stories at Saturday’s program will seek to explain the world around us, such as “Why Rabbit has big eyes and long ears,” “Why the North Star stands still” and “Why does the catfish have a flat head?”

Anderson said in each tribe, only a few select members were given the important job of storyteller.

Predecessors probably picked the new generation of storytellers at young age, Anderson said.

Saturday’s storytellers include Kay McNeil from Historic Jefferson College, Marianne Raley from Armstrong Library, Eddie Ray from 104.7 The Gator, Sam Jones, Joan McLemore and Cheryl Mullins.

Native Americans often gathered in a central meeting places to hear the storytellers, some of whom came from far away to deliver animated lessons on history or practical issues.

“It was like going to school,” Anderson said.

Anderson said storytelling took place each winter.

In warmer months, Native Americans had too much work tending to crops such as corn and squash, but the winter afforded the tribes enough time to tell and listen to stories.

Saturday’s tales will come from Indian tribes across the United States. Many will come from Alabama, such as the Coushatta tribe, Anderson said.

Anthropologists collected some of the stories years ago, and if not for them they would be completely lost, Anderson said.

Anderson said Saturday’s event might draw attendees from around the country. She said she has received inquiries about 11th Moon program from all over since Southern Living Magazine mentioned the event this year.

For those that cannot make the event, she encourages families to extend the tradition of storytelling at home.

“Everyone in life has a story, and family history should not consist of just names and dates but the life stories of those who lived,” Anderson said.

Refreshments will also be served at the event at The Grand Village, a National Historic Landmark, located at 400 Jefferson Davis Blvd.

The site is administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Call 601-446-6502 for more information.

Anderson said registration in not required, but she recommends people arrive early to get good seats.