Monday, March 29, 1999

Native American heritage celebrated

Enquirer Contributor

        OREGONIA — American Indian storytellers celebrated the annual reopening of Fort Ancient State Memorial on Saturday with tales of their elders.

        Sherri “Two Heart” Haman, a Cherokee, and Tom “Soft Shell Turtle” Netz of the Lumbee tribe, recounted stories and myths that are important to their traditions.

        “I have more stories than leaves on the trees,” Mr. Netz said, recalling creation of the sassafras tree and how clever Chipmunk outsmarted Bear but lost his glorious tail.

        For indigenous peoples, storytelling provided far more than entertainment, said Jack Blosser, site manager at Fort Ancient.

        “Prehistoric people had no written record. Storytelling was their means of communicating morals, ethics, and values of their day,” he explained. “The reason for this storytelling session is to give an idea of that oral tradition and show how stories are handed down through time.”

        Mr. Netz answered questions about his clothing and talked about herbal remedies in his medicine pouch.

        Erik Huff, 6, of Fairfield, wanted to know about the carved bone heron around Mr. Netz's neck.

        “I am from the Heron People,” he said. “Heron teaches that through patience, all things are possible.... There is story and meaning in everything we wear.”

        Ms. Haman closed the program by sharing the Cherokee word for peace and teaching audience members the hand gesture that signifies the giving of peace.

        Saturday's program was the first time Fort Ancient has featured storytelling. It also was the first public program since the site reopened for the season March 1.


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