College Media Network - Search the largest news resource for college students by college students

“Help me guarantee that our children can see the Monarch butterfly…”

Native American storyteller gives story-telling lecture on the Cherokee way of life and its significance to the modern world

Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Updated: Monday, January 18, 2010 09:01


Freeman Owle, Cherokee historian, storyteller, and teacher, came to lecture at UNCG.

On Thursday, Nov. 9, Cherokee historian, storyteller, and teacher, Freeman Owle, came to UNCG to give one of his acclaimed story-telling lectures on the Cherokee way of life and its significance in the modern world.

Inspired by his heritage and the third and sixth graders he taught in Cherokee, Owle left elementary teaching in 1990 to become a different teacher of sorts, traveling the Southeast to share his knowledge via Cherokee storytelling and his experience as a teacher of youth.

Owle’s speech was a mixture of traditional Cherokee stories explaining natural phenomena and life lessons, moral-laden personal anecdotes, and the real-life suffering of the native people and the earth. He drew lessons out of Cherokee stories and values to teach the audience about becoming connected with the world and each other.

He began with a few words on the demise of the American Indian: their present-day make up of seven-tenths of the total population, their death by biological warfare brought on by Europeans, and the Trail of Tears. His first story was how the water beetle found North America for them to live, and how it once was a “land of beauty, a land of safety,” with the Cherokee country at one time spanning 57,000 miles. Owle commented on the beauty that still remains in some of the original Cherokee land, such as Boone, recently visited by Owle.

He spoke of the deep sadness brought on by the loss of pristine natural spaces from human’s destructive onslaught on the earth. He talked about how they could once drink water out of a stream, though now the streams have been made unfit to drink. He spoke of the Monarch Butterfly, and this natural beauty’s decline. And he spoke of entrepreneurs wanting to commoditize all that the plant-world gave them, not wanting to share but to rob them of their resources.

Crucial to the Cherokee way of life, he explained, is the youthful sense of wonder of children, and maintaining that in adult life. He emphasized not growing jaded with our daily lives.

“A new day is a new gift,” said Owle. “You should be up in honor with respect for that new beginning. If you don’t want to put your feet to the ground, there is something deeply wrong.”

Nonverbal communication was another important aspect he learned from his culture as well as through working with children in school.

“There’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth,” he said. “We’re supposed to listen twice as much as we talk.”

Underneath his message, Owle emphasized the importance of storytelling. “If we don’t have our stories, we don’t have ourselves,” said Owle, reminding the audience not to forget to share stories with our children.

There was an ebb and flow of connection between the audience’s experience and Owle’s, the Cherokee experience. At times Owle connected the audience fully to the beliefs and values of the Cherokee Indian. However, at other times, it seemed like Owle was accusing the audience of taking part in the injustice to each other and to nature, though he was most likely preaching a reminder to the choir.

At the close of his storytelling lecture, Owle had a moment of sadness and awe for all life that overcame him. He paused and turned to the audience, “I love you, all of you.” He closed with the American Indian value of preparing for seven generations ahead, “Help me guarantee that our children can see the Monarch butterfly and put their feet in a waterfall.”

Native American Storytelling with Freeman Owle is part of the Multicultural Resource Center at UNCG’s homage to Native American Heritage month. Their next event in honor of this month will be a showing of Lakota Woman: Siege of Wounded Knee at the MRC on Thursday, Nov.16 at 6:00 p.m.

Recommended: Articles that may interest you

Be the first to comment on this article! Log in to Comment

You must be logged in to comment on an article. Not already a member? Register now

Log In