May 11, 2007

Oldest stories get staged

Debut explores Native American talesWhen most people think of American folk tales, they think of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed and Brer Rabbit. But when you go back to America's earliest stories, the heroes are the sun, the moon and the coyote.

Native American folk stories focus on nature and animals rather than humans, said Lee Osterhout-Kaplan, director and co-founder of Debut Theatre Company, a theater company for young people by young people.

Debut's latest effort, "Coyote: Tales of a Trickster," combines many of those tales from Native American and Mexican folklore.
Comment:  I wonder if this theater is aware of the ethos of using Native stories without permission. Judging by this article, I'm guessing not.

Also, there's the potential for stereotyping here. I get the impression that all Native cultures are the same and similar to Mexican cultures, according to the Debut Theatre. That all Native stories consist of simple homilies about the sun, moon, and animals. This makes the rich, varied oral traditions of thousands of tribes into kid stuff, on a par with Aesop's fables or Kipling's Just So Stories.


Anonymous said...

I can only surmise that these people are non- native as they refer to to Indian sacred traditions as "Native American folk stories".


Rob said...

Right. That's part of what I was referring to. A typical Native story has more depth and meaning than "Paul Bunyan" or "Johnny Appleseed."

They seem a little cavalier about mixing stories from different cultures. Perhaps they've even modified or invented tales. If I were them, I'd be more cautious about appropriating Native traditions.

Of course, maybe they did everything right and the reporter didn't report that aspect of it. It's hard to say without investigating further.