Academy seeks to foster storytellers

A Community Academy that kicks off Feb. 11 will include an open session for those with tales to tell.

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A new effort by Tam?°stslikt Cultural Institute could bring fresh eyes and ears to the museum that sits on a windy plain and is not always in the forefront of everyone's minds.

The museum is behind Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Mission, east of Pendleton on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The contemporary building is tucked back just enough to be invisible from the roadway and has less-than-perfect signage to point the way, officials said.

They are anticipating a new approach could increase traffic and visitor demographics. A program called Community Academy will begin this month with a storytelling session on Feb. 11, a sort of open mike morning for those who have a story to pass on.

Native American storytellers are sought, of course, but others are welcome. Novice storytellers are invited to exercise their bravery in front of a live audience by sharing a story or two, noted Susan Sheoships, the institute's education coordinator.

Three experienced tribal storytellers will help kick off the event, which could make a great group event, she said. "We defintely need an audience."

Tribal nations everywhere are on the cusp of losing their storytellers. "For example, when Tam?°stslikt opened in 1998, there were several active traditional storytellers," explained Bobbie Conner, director of the institute. "Today, there are very few. We are hoping to grow the cultural assets of our reservation by connecting interested people with a teaching resource."

The stories told at the open mike won't be recorded, Sheoships added. "It's just for experience 'in the now.' We're hoping to bring some people out who have the raw materials to be good storytellers."

Community Academy won't always be about a tribal-specific activity, Conner said. "It's very much a community-driven program, and we are open to suggestions. Suggestions can be posted on Tam?°stslikt's Facebook."

Even with good representation now from the community at large, Tam?°stslikt officials hope to make the museum a "more friendly place to come to," a place people think of as hosting active, learning events, in addition to the exhibits that change on a regular basis, Sheoships noted. "It's part of an effort at making ourselves more visible and recognizing a lot of our community assets could use beefing up."

This event and more to follow -- including tribal dances in May -- will be free for participants and spectators.

For more information email education@tamastslikt.org or call 541-429-7723.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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