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  1. ORALTRADITIONS Chapter 14

  2. STORIES AND NARRATIVES • stories • often creation stories • set long ago in mythical age • communicate moral traditions and knowledge • origins of landscape, human and animal inhabitants • often told in performance setting • accompanied by songs and dancing • narratives • meet a concrete need • pass along specific skills and knowledge • record oral history

  3. oral tradition not have single meaning • rich traditions vary from nation to nation • each First Nation gives own oral tradition a name in its own language • each Nation own traditions and procedures • individuals, families or clans own stories or narratives • other stories can be told by anyone • permission must be obtained before passing on a story • once in print, story becomes static • “oral literature” • no longer strictly oral

  4. SONGS OF THE NISGA’A • historically, Nisga’a family histories, lineages, prime hunting and fishing locations, love and loss, lullabies, tales of victory and defeat, passed down orally • smallpox and measle epidemics killed population by half • many “songcatchers” died before able to pass on musical heritage In tribute to Bill Reid Chinook SongCatchers performing Nisga’a songs

  5. 1927, 2 outsiders recorded the songs of the Nisga’a using an Edison wax cylinder recording machine • 2 elderly chiefs recorded • Txalahaet (Frank Bolton) • Pahl (Charles Barton) • sang dozens of songs – some learned by own great-grandfathers • 7 decades the recordings were in basement of Canadian Museum of Civilization • only small fraction transcribed into music • now able to make copies stored on computers • created CD and played 75 years later to Nisga’a • ancestral songs sacred • many First Nations want songs returned so young people can relearn own history and culture Marius Barbeau working a wax cylinder recording machine

  6. IN THE TIME OF THE TRANSFORMERS • many songs set in ancient time long ago • time of the Transformers • moral truths, cultural knowledge, standards of human behavior passed one generation to next • origins of landscapes • origins of people and communities • origins of certain plants or animals • explain special relationship to land and resources

  7. before Transformers, world chaotic, disorganized, filled with monsters • animals and humans shared some characteristics • Transformers travelled the land changed things to how they are today • changed the monsters to land features, plants or animals • traditional west coast Transformer – Raven • traditional interior Transformer – Coyote • different than European “creation stories” • First Nations as continuous flow of time • emphasize continuity of existence

  8. THE TRICKSTER • Transformer characters can be tricksters • special, often witty, humourous character demonstrating opposite characteristics valued in humans • shows consequences of acting in unacceptable manner • reverse way of teaching moral, ethical and philosophical manner • often plays a creator role but is liar, cheat, lazy and lustful • ageless, genderless, free of stereotypes • can take form of human, animal or inanimate object • supernatural powers • not constricted to human limitations • allow for explaining creation to people

  9. links humans to animal world • people appear after mythical period where animals were like people • First Nations able to maintain respectful and holistic relationship because animals came first and humans learned from them • animals as relatives or forefathers • trickster as lost relative educating his relations • trickster stories often funny • proactive, powerful way to prevent wrong-doing and uphold law • person in error can save face by listening and learning from trickster stories

  10. ORAL NARRATIVES • focus more on transmitting skills, news and history than cultural values • like creation and trickster stories, also want to entertain • narratives that record history • become important in establishing Aboriginal title to nation’s territories • Delgamuukw case judge ruled oral history must be accepted as evidence • set precedence for future cases • not been used as evidence to record BC history until recently • historians of Cdn West beginning to use traditional accounts of events to give balanced history of BC • oral traditions written down become oral history

  11. FAMILY NARRATIVES • one special type of story recording history and traditions of a family • told within the family • concern family members and their skills and experiences • may describe participation in community event • may describe special skill a family member has to pass down • each story helps listeners place themselves and family in particular context of time and place

  12. TEACHING STORIES • oral tradition one of most lasting and effective ways of educating First Nations children • trickster stories teach them how to act and behave • creation stories teach where they came from • family narratives teach about family history • older people teach younger through stories reflecting experience • some stories have specific purposes • some transmit cultural knowledge in general way • learning in oral setting different than printed text • have to listen to procedure and remember it

  13. ORATORY • the art of delivering a formal speech in a public place • requires training and gives great dignity and respect • many First Nations use a special form of language for such speeches • speaking reflects individual and the people for whom speaking • ability to state position in respectful way important • respect a two-way street • First Nations using formal oratory are trained • great honour to speak for family, clan, house or tribe • spends time listening so doesn’t misrepresent group • art of listening important • part of oral tradition