The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative – Thomas King

 

“There is a story I know. It’s about the earth and how it floats in space on the back of a turtle. I’ve heard this story many times, and each time someone tells the story, it changes.”– Thomas King, The Truth About Stories

I realized that I had read a few of these CBC Massey lectures in a college lit class that focused on Native Canadian and American literature. It was really rewarding to re-read them after a relatively long interval as I have learned more Native Canadian history in the interim (residential schools, Idle no More movement, etc).

The lectures were  brilliant.  King manages to be witty, snarky, sarcastic and informative all in one. He exhorts “the story,” and I must say that even as a reader I hadn’t really considered  the real significance of the story. As King said, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.”King talks about the importance of oral storytelling, a dying art and one that often isn’t respected. He talks about the importance of decolonizing stories, and the need to place equal importance on all stories, regardless of origin.

“You’re not the Indian I had in mind” was probably the most interesting  lecture to me, talking about the stereotypical Indian and questions Indian identity:

“For to be seen as “real,” for people to “imagine” us as Indians, we must be “authentic.”

Definitely a must-read for everyone. A link to the CBC Massey Lectures here: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey-archives/2003/11/07/massey-lectures-2003-the-truth-about-stories-a-native-narrative/

 

Off-topic: The Native Canadian/American struggles remind me so much of colonialism and postcolonialism in Africa; there are so many parallels. Reading the part of Mandela’s autobiography  when he and Winnie Mandela stopped over in Nunavut after he was freed from prison, struck me. Mandela was surprised that  the Native Canadians who lived up there knew him and were inspired by him. A reminder that heroes are universal and their zeal and hope can impact other groups . Some struggles are universal.

 

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