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Native American storytellers hope tales will stop stereotypes

Native American storytellers hope tales will stop stereotypes

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SALT LAKE CITY — In the beginning, there was a council of animals; those animals that favored the day and those that favored the night. The animals decided to play a game to see which group would decide how long to keep sunshine and darkness.

This is how the creation story begins in the ancient Native American Indian tribal story of how "day" and "night" can now co-exist in the universe.

"And of course there was a lot of arguing between these animals," said Eileen Quintana, a Navajo educator in the Nebo School District. "In the end, it was decided that day and night would be cut in half for all the animals."

It is stories like this that Native American Indian educators hope will give Utahns a better understanding of native culture and how it fits into Utah history.

"Some books and curriculum out there are not from the Native American perspective," said Quintana.

November is National Native American Indian Heritage month. The State Office of Indian Affairs will celebrate Utah's Indigenous People's Day Nov. 25 as part of a two day education and celebration of Native American Indian culture and history.

"Gov. Herbert, when he was lieutenant governor, wanted to celebrate the people (Native American Indian) by honoring their creativity, their history, their language," said Shirlee Silversmith, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs. "We have eight indigenous sovereign nations here in the state of Utah, and we want the general public to know more about them."

Indigenous People's Day celebration
  • Nov. 25 - 26
  • Taylorsville High School
    5225 S. Redwood Road
    Taylorsville
  • Doors open at 5 pm
  • Free family program begins at 6 pm
  • Traditional Native American Indian food available for purchase
More info: heritage.utah.gov

This year the Utah Division of Indian Affairs is helping Utahns learn more about its native families through storytellers — a tribal tradition passed down through generations. This is a way to teach pride not only for Utah's native families but the rest of the community as well.

"Our self-identity is told in many of the stories that we hear," said Quintana, "as well as the great contributions that American Indians have given to society, to the state of Utah."

Organizers for Utah Indigenous Day say these activities are necessary because the history books do not have the complete story of Native American Indians. "These stories are not told by native people," added Cecilia Tso, who is Navajo and teaches at the University of Utah.

"It's important to hear stories directly from indigenous people and then teach them to the younger generation," said Tso. "Also, it's an opportunity for non-native people to hear the real history, not just what's in the history books."

Students and teachers in school districts throughout the state will listen to storytellers via video feed and then get the chance to create their own stories. The Utah Education Network will feature films throughout the month by Native American Indian film makers.

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