Saturday, October 12th
Dovie Thomason, Storyteller, Author, Indigenous Cultural Educator
“Lessons from My Old People”
Over 25 years ago, while at a powwow at Massachusett’s Council Oak, where Massasoit gave orders to feed the first Pilgrims, Dovie Thomason woke just before dawn to a song in an unfamiliar language. Much was unfamiliar to her then, as the Lakota/Kiowa Apache/Scot had recently moved from the Plains of her heritage to the Northeastern woodlands.
Looking out of her tent, she saw a man in a feather cape, facing the sunrise and singing. Following his song, she introduced herself to the man called Namo Hatirire, Red Thunder Cloud–herbalist, healer, storyteller, singer, dancer and last speaker of the Catawba language. That same day, he took her to meet Princess Red Wing, of the Narragansett and Wampanoag nations, as she told stories in the shade of the great tree where her ancestors Massasoit and Metacomet (King Philip) had met with the first English.
This began her tutelage by some of the Old People who taught her of the diversity of the nations grouped by linguists and anthropologists under the generic “Algonquian” label. From Red Thunder Cloud, she first learned of the Catawba, a Siouan-language-speaking people from the Southeast whose existence has broadened perceptions of how dispersed and travelled Indian people were before contact on this continent.
Coming from the rich oral tradition of her family, nurtured by her Kiowa Apache grandmother, Dovie has had a lifetime of listening and telling the old, traditional stories that are the foundational narrative of tribal values and memory. When she adds personal stories and untold histories, the result is a contemporary narrative of Indigenous North America told with elegance, wit and passion.
She has been featured at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Barbican Theatre in London, The Smithsonian, The Kennedy Center, The National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., international storytelling festivals from Ireland to New Zealand and, as a narrative voice, in documentaries about Native People and storytelling for the BBC, RTE, NPR and PBS. Her audio-recordings have been honored by multiple awards from the Parents’ Choice Foundation and the American Library Association and she’s been described by the ALA as a “valuable resource for multicultural education.” Thomason has been honored by receiving the National Storytelling Network’s prestigious ORACLE: Circle of Excellence Award and the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers’ Traditional Storyteller Award. The National Endowment for the Arts, Arts International Foundation, and the Smithsonian Associates support her work as a master traditional cultural artist and scholar. A former Native Studies professor, she presents regularly at universities across the country and has served as a consultant to UCLA Film School on the importance of narrative in modern film, to NASA on indigenous views of science and technology, and presented at a recent TEDx Conference.