Through storytelling, Native American tribes share, preserve, and pay tribute to their early beginnings
A group of 11 students and their teacher from a STEM school in Denver, Colorado, spent a cool evening around a campfire on the Camp Casey beach listening to Native American stories told by Lou LaBambard. A long-term resident of Whidbey Island, Lou has spent more than 50 years offering countless lessons in history, tradition, and culture as a Native American storyteller. If you’ve attended the Coupeville Water Festival anytime since its inception 25 years ago, you may have had an opportunity to hear his storytelling.
With a backdrop of the beach and a setting sun, LaBombard tells of how his Delaware mother, Seneca/Mohawk father, and his grandmother carried him in a cradle-board during Pow Wows, and how he listened to tribal elders and storytellers of many tribal nations. He shared how Native Americans use these oral traditions instead of the written language to document their history. But more than that, they use these stories to teach proper behaviors, norms, and values to their children.
The students had a chance to hear the story of two Pueblo children and a dragonfly that teach us the lessons of not wasting food or resources. They hear the story of a small mouse who made his way to the top of a mountain and along the way met a bison and a wolf, sacrificed his eyesight, and eventually morphed into a golden eagle. The lesson of the mouse is that the purpose of life is to be selfless and of service to others. He also speaks on the spiritual beliefs of several Native American nations. The Navajos believe in an evolution of the world from a cold mist that eventually gave form from water. The Iroquois and Algonquin’s beliefs are more similar to the book of Genesis.
Through storytelling, Native American tribes share, preserve, and pay tribute to their early beginnings, so future generations can continue their legacy. Camp Casey makes experiencing this rich tradition available to groups as part of their programming. Groups visiting Camp Casey can add Native American storytelling by Lou LaBambard to their outdoor education program or as part of their retreat agenda. Whatever your motivation, you are most likely to come away from this experience enriched and with a new appreciation of Native American culture.
Professor Lou LaBombard has taught at Skagit Valley College on the Whidbey campus for more than 21 years. His areas of expertise include anthropology, sociology, Native American studies, and ethnic studies. He has worked in archaeology and ethnology on Whidbey and elsewhere for more than 35 years. Lou has lectured for many groups as a professional, international teller of Native American oral traditions, and has been a head singer and traditional dancer, “whip man” and judge at pow wows around the country. Prior to joining Skagit Valley College, he was chair of the Social Sciences Department. of Navajo College, Tsaille, Arizona. His family has resided in this area for 22 years.