Indigenous Storywork

Marta Lu Clifford with hands raised in a production of Salmon is Everything

This course is in development through a curriculum seed grant from UO’s Environment Initiative. Indigenous Storywork focuses on the value, use and centrality of stories to regional Indigenous communities. This course is co-taught with Elder Residence, Marta Lu Clifford (Cree, Chinook, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde), an actress and educator. She will be a valued resource for this journey through the course, offering her insight and personal experience to help contextualize the material.

The course will explore how oral tradition constitutes a way of knowing, and how traditional Indigenous stories are recognized records of historical, social and ecological knowledge passed down through generations. Through a first-hand experience of Native storytelling, students will learn about the Indigenous cosmologies and value systems represented in the traditional stories of Oregon’s Nine Federally Recognized Tribes. This course introduces, demonstrates and engages students in the practice of Indigenous methodologies such as: centering relationship, consultation, and reciprocity, or giving back. In this course, Indigenous co-facilitators, as well as guest speakers from Oregon’s Tribes, will be understood as living knowledge-holders; the course will center their knowledge of stories and their social, spiritual and ecological application. The course will further expose students to how Indigenous storytelling shapes scientific and artistic work across many fields, from environmental studies, to contemporary drama. In this way, students witness the ways that storytelling, and the personal and community knowledge stories represents, forward democratic values, Indigenous sovereignty, and ecological balance. We conceive of storytelling as personal and community “work” in the sense that awareness, growth and change are the necessary outcomes of Indigenous stories. We anticipate that this course will be a process of discovery and creative engagement through which students will become aware of the stories that they carry, personally and within their communities, and the effects of those stories on their sense of identity and on their relationships to family and community. The instructors are committed to nurturing a safe atmosphere in which these discoveries can take place, and through which students can (re)claim their own voices and stories.

Objectives include, listening to traditional stories of Oregon’s Nine Federally Recognized Tribes through first-hand telling as well as written accounts; practicing the skills of listening as an expression of Indigenous methodologies; practicing orality as a means by which knowledge is shared; exploring or developing your personal and community connection to Indigenous stories; researching the way traditional ecological knowledge is embedded within traditional stories and how stories carry and preserve Indigenous knowledge; researching the ways that Indigenous stories are understood and utilized across various fields including environmental studies, law, and the arts; understanding Indigenous methodologies as the basis for proactive allyship; developing creative or research project that puts the value of reciprocity into action.