Jeremiah 30:1-2 (NIV) — “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord. This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.’”
As I understand it, the Native people of Alaska refer to themselves as “The People” — “Yupik” means “Real Person” and “Tlingit” means “Human.”
The oral traditions of all Native people of Alaska teach the individual how to be human — to know who he or she is and how one fits into society and the cosmos.
Alaska Native storytelling has been passed down through generations by means of oral presentations. The stories tell life lessons and/or serve as lessons in preservation of heritage.
Due to the decline in the number of speakers of Native language, oral storytelling has become less common.
Ahhh ... but there is light, there is hope! Here on Kodiak Island, there are many individuals who continue to exercise and teach many of the Native arts and traditions.
During these changing and turbulent times throughout our nation and on the world stage, I’ve asked in my prayers, “What’s my part, what should I do, what path should I follow?”
Quickened to my mind was our local Alutiiq Museum and the classes of teaching Native language. In our own Daily Mirror we get the Alutiiq Word of the Week.
Much of what we have is now written down. Much was attained from elders verbally, and then written down to preserve the language and traditions.
This vital preservation and teaching of Native life has awakened in me a possible reality. Currently Bibles are accessible almost anywhere you go. There’s multiple versions and translations, commentaries and other Bible helps that are easily obtained.
But what if ... What if the only Bible you have access to is the Bible you carry within yourself!
King David wrote in Psalm 119:11-12 — “I have written Your Word upon my heart that I might not sin against thee; Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.”
Let us consider the Native art of storytelling. Remember the purpose: “Native oral tradition and presentations of stories, of life lessons and to serve in the preservation of heritage.”
When I was much younger, I had a chance to step off the ferry, walk down the gangplank, step onto the beach, receive my cup of oyster chowder, walk by the roasting of salmon fillets on cedar planks. Even if these courtesies of welcoming have changed, I’m 100 percent certain the storytelling of Raven the Trickster wouldn’t change.
Even if the longhouse was destroyed and all the props were lost, the story line wouldn’t change.
Hence my reflection upon the lessons taught at the Alutiiq Museum.
Asking ourselves: If the Bible were taken away and outlawed, which of the 66 books of the Bible do you know the best?
How well could any of us tell the story of Esther, King Saul or David, the shepherd boy?
How about the four Gospels? We know that the book of Matthew presents Jesus as King. Mark presents Him as the Suffering Servant. Luke shows Him as the Son of Man, while John speaks of Christ as the Son of God. How well could we “Tell that Story”?
Would it seem too much to ask of ourselves to learn the art of storytelling to Talk Story to preserve and present our Christian heritage? Here on Kodiak Island, we have a great example to learn from and to imitate.