Re-reading “Don’t Let the Sun Step Over You“, the collected stories by Eva Tulene Watt assisted by Keith Basso made me write my mother and say, “Tell me a story”…and she did. She did, and it was good! If you’ve read the work, you’ll know why I add emphasis just so in the previous sentence. And why I wanted to hear from my mother about our people, our cousins, our family, about the past that touches the present and the future. The stories she was told or the things she observed.
Re-reading “Don’t Let the Sun Step Over You” made me want to hear songs. Made me want to hear songs I’d never heard before in this life and songs I already knew. One of them was “I’ve Been Around”, a popular Apache song that somehow voices all those stories of the hardworking, big-hearted, fierce, gentle, humorous, resilient, pragmatic, whimsical and wise Apache. “They’re always walking, walking, going around and doing things. They worked hard!”
I hear my ggrandmother’s voice again, and the stories she told and tried to tell us even when we weren’t listening, only halfway or transfixed cause they seemed light, even funny, but were deep. Stories when she was cooking or cleaning or working or chasing us (me!) with a switch when I had done something she directly told me not to do but I did it anyway because I was stubborn and/or curious.
Stories tell you why you should do things or why not to do other things. They give you purpose. They give you hope. They help you remember why you’re here now, right this very minute and not just what our ancestors endured. Stories help explain why they are important, to be kept, and remembered so our children understand and know. Some stories are shared with non-family, not-of our People, but others are special. Knowing them helps you understand why we defend them and how when someone copies you, culturally appropriates, or takes and changes your stories into their fantasies, these critically important parts of your culture and identity, it is beyond offensive but also really hurtful. Painful. That they do not care, that they make excuses, rationalize or say its just “fantasy” or “honoring” you is even worse. It’s terrible for native identities and cultures. Continue reading