Stories Walking: An International Workshop for Indigenous Writers

Nov 24th, 2016 | By | Category: BLTN Global, BLTN International, Fall 2016, Featured

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Stories Walking – Costa Rica and the Beginning of an International Relationship

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-12-23-12-pmCeci Lewis
English Department Chair, Cochise College
Sierra Vista, AZ
BLSE 1996

This August, Bread Loaf Teacher Network members Rex Lee Jim and I began a journey to make a shared dream a reality. Traveling with two Navajo Youth Leaders from the Navajo Community Health Outreach program, we flew to San José, Costa Rica to begin the implementation of  “Stories Walking – Reclaiming Rhetorical Sovereignty.”  This project, which has been funded by the de Rothschild Foundation, is a humanities-based work that provides indigenous communities with opportunities to become advocates and agents for social change as researchers, storytellers, ethical and critical users of digital tools and social media, drawing on their idealism, insights, and the richness of their cultures and communities.

Traveling to Borocua Territory, Stories Walking took its first step at connecting indigenous communities of the Americas. This historical trip linked the Navajo Nation with Boruca and Térraba students from the local university. For this first writing workshop, the Finca Educativa Kan Tan in Boruca Territory became home for the participants as we began sharing our stories, our writing, and our love of our various cultures.

In total, there were approximately twenty writing workshop participants for the two and half day experience, which began Friday night with dinner and writing, and continued through Sunday morning. The following poem is one example of the collaborative writing process that we experienced together:

 

Cadavera Exquisito

Y es que poquito a poquito te encuentro en mi corazón.
Un sombra voy atravesando con mucha luz
La quietud de los sentidos

El vibrar de tu voz remueve la tierra y descobre el brillo oculta
En mi pensamiento, el deceo deseo desentir un beso de mi semillo.

Durante algún tiempo medité solo acompañada por el ruido de silencio.
Quisiera volver al pasado, para poder recuperar lo perdido.

Encontrando mi camino en completa paz
Como el agua abre camino al pasar.
Camino, camino en el tiempo el que me llena de nostalgia.

Lugar sagrado con mucho energío que me llama.
Entre saberes de la vida, esto lo plenitud
Naturaleza de verde

Yo vibramos mi viola con zumba insectos
Ustedes son parte de mi sueño, siembren la semilla que están recibiendo.
Respirar libertad y seguir haciéndolo, ayudar y continuar con nuestro destino.

The beauty of the fertile land demonstrates the potential of the fertile minds at the table.
And I shall overcome, even after the sun sets,
Because the voices of the forest are singing with one accord.

Y en el silencio
La oscuridad brilla.

 

The writing continued well into the night both on Friday and Saturday. One writing participant exclaimed to me that this was the first time in her academic experience (she is currently enrolled in university) that anyone has asked her to write about her people. Her comment reinforced our vision and purpose for Stories Walking.

Stories Walking’s vision and purpose are outlined here, by Rex Lee Jim.

Stories Walking:  Reclaiming Rhetorical Sovereignty

Rex at breakfastRex Lee Jim
Poet
BLSE 2001; M.Litt Candidate
Rock Point, AZ

The Stories Walking: Reclaiming Rhetorical Sovereignty (SWRRS) program is a humanities-based work that provides indigenous communities with opportunities to become advocates and agents for social change as researchers, storytellers, ethical and critical users of digital tools and social media, drawing on their idealism, insights, and the richness of their cultures and communities.  We see Navajo and indigenous peoples as ready for learning opportunities that encourage them to cultivate habits of mind such as respect across differences, dialogue, shared inquiry, and cooperating to get things done:  essential for building a more just and humane world. Educating the imagination and creating narratives that change minds and hearts are at the center of this undertaking.

Rationale: Across the globe, indigenous people have kept their knowledge and traditions alive through spoken and written storytelling. Although the languages of these storytellers may rarely be heard or read outside of their communities, their vibrant, powerful languages sustain and build meaningful relationships and healthy lifestyles.  This project, in this modern form, will not only integrate but also expand the collected wisdom and experiences of the participants as they write their stories, perform their plays and dances, and produce their music. This program aims to co-create contexts in indigenous communities on the Navajo Nation and in the rest of Indigenous America, for respectfully and authentically building writing communities that a) provide a broader audience for the stories that need to be told, both in the indigenous language and in an international language; b) create an extended, sustained, writing network that can serve to unite the various languages and peoples, both face to face and electronically, and c) provide a global forum for the stories and experiences of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. We recognize the magnitude of this project requires a long term commitment, one in which we are deeply invested.

Below are slide shows compiled by Navajo Youth Leaders Cody Morgan and Ty Metteba. 

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