Light & Shadow – Images & Reflections – from the 9th Northwest Indian Storytelling Festival



 A click on any image opens each gallery – a slideshow with all of the photos is at the bottom of the page






Northwest Indian Storytellers & Board Members
Northwest Indian Storytellers & Board Members



















Max Defender Sundance Drum
Max Defender Sundance Drum
Max Defender Sundance Drum
Max Defender Sundance Drum – A beautiful prayer song was shared later in the evening that was a gift from the little people – received in a dream – to give us humans strength in our praying.




Grandmother Agnes Pilgram Baker encourages all to use their voices in ending following the lead of Seattle and stabling Indigenous Peoples Day
Grandmother Agnes Pilgram Baker encourages all to use their voices in advocating for a National Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday of October







Victor Mandan (Mandan/Hidatsa) - shared a lineage warrior story and a deep story of the Water Buster Clan and the Sacred Medicine Bundle
Victor Mandan (Mandan/Hidatsa) – shared a lineage warrior story and a deep story of the Water Buster Clan and the Sacred Medicine Bundle and its work in ending the Dust Bowl.











 Apprenticing with Elder Storyteller Rose High Bear 




Darlene Foster & Haley Carlson
Elder Storyteller and NISA Advisory Council Member Darlene Foster with granddaughter Haley Carlson




Apprenticing with Elder Storyteller Roger Fernandes 



 Apprenticing with Elder Storyteller Esther Stutzman








Story crafted by the ages are deep reservoirs of human experience. They live within the mysterious mix of vulnerability and strength that it is to be human. One of the wonders of the ancient stories is how … their deep meanings unfold across the stages of a lifetime. Like a “simple” traditional song with a circular structure – which can be entered from an almost infinite set of places in the circle – always experienceable as fresh. And so it goes with the stories and the changing perspectives of our place along life’s journeys. It is in this ability to speak to the wholeness of life that stories sustain across generations. This theme of wholeness permeated this year’s tellings.

Stories that my daughter grew up with were being told with both her and our granddaughter listening and hearing the tales with us – 3 generations together. My granddaughter shared knowing looks as she noticed ways that versions varied from the way they have been told at home. The intimacy of a human voice imparting what we receive in such a personal way… and feeling the love and care that has sustained the telling… and the way the stories have encouraged and taught us. These are among the greatest treasures of humanity. Feeling the movements of love and experience moving forward in a good way – despite our imperfections and challenges as human beings.

It is in the telling of story that are rooted our ways of understanding beauty, healing, family, community, our many relatives in the earthly world, conflict, peace making and so much more. The strength of stories, which have remained relevant over the generations reveal how we work together to face personal and communal existential challenges. This is how decentralized indigenous communities teach legal orders or laws informing each one of their responsibilities in relationship. These are places we can turn together in times of violation and conflict finding guidance. It is in knowing our place and our relationships and fulfilling our responsibility to place that freedom arises in indigenous experience.

This is a very different experience than that which has arisen from rights based orientation in which property and commerce have assumed rights greater than the rights of the earth herself, or of communities indigenous to place. The arrogance and violence of the exercise of such “rights” has exposed the imbalance of responsibility implicit in our ecological participation with the earth – our responsibility to the common welfare of one another. The age of the industrial Anthropocene is revealing its unsustainability as expressed in global climate change, the weakening of human languages (carriers of the wisdom of place based experience) and the rapidly accelerating rates of species extinctions. It is among the traditional indigenous stories that the ecological and social wisdoms that have sustained life in Cascadia, Ilahee, the Pacific Northwest, over 1000’s of generations are revealed. Val Napoleon and others in Indigenous Legal studies programs and Tribal legal programs are turning to these stories to reveal the Indigenous Legal Orders which have informed responsibility of each of us in bringing health and wholeness to ourselves, our loved ones and communities. A growing movement is using these ancient stories as testimony in court cases, allowing them to become a part of common law (within the nation state system) and they are slowly emerging into a new legitimacy after being suppressed for generations of forced acculturation into colonial languages and schools. The stories are gathering power.

This year trickster tales, featuring raven, coyote, rabbit and blue jay among others were generous with themselves – the world being shaken up and awoken in dramatic ways over time. 70,000-year-old memories showed up to remind us that many of today’s human challenges have been faced before. And that indigenous peoples around the world have connected and are continuing their connections in ways that anthropologists and nation states have tended to dismiss. These wisdoms and histories, which have been held in private, are remerging with new strengths and relevance.

The festival began on the day of the 2nd of 3 blood moon lunar eclipses. One of the tales, which connected to this, was of the reemergence of a ceremony for the Balancing Power of Women. A ceremony in which a man dances in support of the Women who choose their place of Power on the dance floor. It is a reminder of the responsibility of men to support women in their dance of Balancing Power, without interference.

Another tale of significance that came out was of the Sacred Medicine Bundle of the Mandan Water Buster Clan. A tale that connected with it’s theft by the Field Museum in Chicago and the work of young people to recover it and bring it home. This was during the time of the dust bowl when it stopped raining for years. Upon the successful return of the bundle and the day its home coming ceremony ended a 3-day rain commenced from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. A reminder of the reality of the stories and the medicine, which they carry.

Many of the stories were about how we have learned to work together. The grandmother cedar tree story Johnny Moses shared is among those – the story of migration that Rose High Bear shared is another. A theme developed as many “raising the sky” stories began to come out. This represents the beautiful fostering of emerging tellers which happens at the festival each year. As usual, the diversity and artistry of telling was inspiring, provoking and full of wonders.

Local legend, Celilo Falls born Ed Edmo, told 3 times at this years festival, opening on the first day, opening on the third day and closing with a final pushing up the sky story on the final day. The people are – working together. Eee Hychka, thank you, to all who share so generously of themselves in bringing a fine festival to life once again.


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 Wisdom of the Elders

Northwest Indian Storytellers Association




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