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Recording Oral Traditions in American Indian Communities: Some Basic Considerations



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Field, Margaret 


Oral traditions serve as linguistic structures that help reinforce cultural values and group identity. This is particularly true of American Indian stories that contain moral content, and are typically aimed at young audiences. This paper discusses how such stories, commonly known as ‘coyote stories’, form an important body of knowledge that not only represents cultural values and philosophical orientations, but teaches them to their listeners.

Communities view their oral traditions as public evidence of a communal identity, and it is therefore incumbent upon academics to find ways to build bridges between existing bodies of scholarship and the needs of traditionally oral communities to assure the future of their identities. Multimedia formats are particularly suited to this purpose in that they work to bridge pre-literate languages with contemporary contexts. This paper will discuss these issues in relation to the Kumiai community and endangered language of Baja California, Mexico, where a collaborative project aims to create multimedia teaching materials for use in community schools.


World Oral Literature Project Workshop 2010


oral literature, American Indian, recording, Kumiai

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