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"The Truth About Stories"

Towards Day 2 of Evolving Systems course

I. Coursekeeping
1. welcome back! (did everyone come back??)
first things first: (continuing to) get to know one another,
and to look @ the world from others' points of view:
get up and trade places w/ someone NOT sitting near you:
introduce her and remind us of her favorite story/s
and then take her place @ the table
(& try to look @ the world from her point of view??)

2. checking in re:  the mechanics:
let's see how we've done @ finding our way to the course forum,
(or elsewhere??): creating an account, logging in, making a posting
(w/ a tip on making your links active)
talk about the experience of negotiating the site,
speaking to the world?

3. two sign-up sheets:
one to write down your name and user-name
(for my use only; also--
do you want to be called by your given name or your user name in class?--
possibility opens up here for alternative personalities/behaviors!)

one to schedule writing conferences w/ me, to begin next week:
on board first, for public revising & negotiating

4. next week's writing assignments:
by Monday evening, read one another's creation stories;
post on-line your afterthoughts from today's discussion,
comparisons between King's stories, your classmates, your own...
by 6 p.m. Wednesday, e-mail me a NEW creation story you've written.

Type it in 12-pt. font (one of the plain fonts like Times New Roman),
double-spaced, w/ your name, date, paper # in upper right-hand corner,
AND E-MAIL IT AS A Microsoft Word ATTACHMENT (doc or docx) to

Write for your classmates—imagine you are telling us a story:
what needs explaining?
What point of view works best, for doing that explaining?
(Following Thomas King, what strategy will you choose
for telling your story, and what values will that strategy suggest?)

In the weeks to come, you’ll get to re-write this story,
to dig beneath it, perform an archeology of it,
add to its architecture, figure out where it is located.
But for now: just tell the story of creation (of what??!!),
and make it as good a story as you can.

There are many models of this sort of writing in King's book....
we'll turn there soon.

Questions, first, about homework, or
anything else we talked about on Tuesday....?

5. Any second thoughts on our discussion of "what conversation is...?"
(one thing I noticed: the different sorts of associations we came up w/:
for ex: what do "picnic table, restaurant, business office, parents," etc. tell us? how do they operate?)

We'll save your "braindraining" associations for evolution til later....
the concept of "draining the brain" will be an important one for us here--the attempt to access the rich resources of the unconscious more directly, to have our initial thoughts be less deliberative, can open up the conversation...

II. So, let's think about your range of creation stories:
how they work, as responses to King's claims,
what the "nature of the universe" is that they describe,
what "different values" do they suggest:

what creation myths have we collected/will be referencing?
Olivia: 2 Tibetan 
Karina: Mayan 
Sarah: Egyptian (cf. Hebrew) 
Summer: Chinese
Kirstin: Chinese
Girl in Gold Hat: Norse and Big Bang
Lemon Koala: 2 Chinese
Bingqing: Chinese
Aimee: Judeo-Christian
Betrice, Paige, Prianna, Tiannan?

Cf. w/ King's
I. "You'll Never Believe What Happened"

p. 9: they (family stories) control our lives
p. 10: w/in creation stories are relationships that help to define the nature of the universe and how cultures understand the world
p. 22: two creation stories, and two
different strategies for telling them-->
suggesting different values:
exuberance vs. authority/veracity;
cooperation vs. hierarchy; balance vs. competition
p. 25: dichotomous choice between sacred, secular
p. 26: Do the stories reflect the world as it truly is,
or did we simply start off with the wrong story?

p. 27: what kind of world might we have created w/ a story about a flawed,
understanding, sympathetic deity who needed advice and accepted help?
p. 29: how live your life differently, having heard this story??

II. You're Not the Indian I Had in Mind
Curtis's photographs of national fantasy about Indians:
creating authenticity/fixed identity, vs. Richard Throssel's imaginative acts
seeing what we expect to see: cultural rituals/lies
photographs are imaginative acts
racial reality-games designed to exclude: value of authenticity in rarity
creating social change through intellectual, artistic activity
stories made up to set the world straight

III. Let Me Entertain You
Ishi as museum specimen
on being a spokesperson: expert, vs. entertainment
"an apple," Uncle Tomahawk, performing in Aboriginal minstrel show
favorite stories re discovery, exploration, settlement (w/ Indians as souvenirs)
children's story w/ Coyote inventing Columbus to play baseball w/
(inventing history to make political point?)
Puritans creating stories needed to carry the day, w/ Indians "stupid as garden poles";
3 centuries later, made into cultural treasure, mythic figure: exotic, terrifying
performances of Charles Eastman, Pauline Johnson, Sitting Bull (vs. Crazy Horse)
article about King as urban Indian, contradictory first class and first nations
entertainment all you are left w/ when only defence is a good story
IV. A Million Porcupines Crying in the Dark

hopeful pessimist: stories as medicine to change the world:
told differently to cure or injure (Louis Owens' story of the long walk home; and suicide)
p. 95: surrounded by stories we can trace back to others, cultural cornerstones
oral literature not quantifiable; ethnocentric stumble over tribal pictographic systems
Scott Momaday on white insensitivity to language, and Native valuing of it
bibliography as eulogy; border as figment of imagination
The Deerslayer: "skin makes the man"=essence of racism: White Reason vs. Native Instinct
Native writers work in present; past too well populated/defended: trapped in time warp/dead
Now, where was I?
known world of Christianity as open door to Native universe:
p. 109: examine distinct/opposing good/evil;
imagine world of cooperation, not
p. 111: insane attempt to identify/destroy evil (Moby Dick)
meaning refracted by cosmology, shaped by cultural paradigms
making ketchup out of hail storm on the tomatoes; not worship but part of nature
p. 115: if you believe in maps
Canadians creating fiction for people they write about
Native schools of porcupines and china dolls, crying in the dark
narrative style privileges repetition, hyperbole, orality as storytelling strategies;
inventive, humorous, saving stories keep me alive

V. What Is It About Us That You Don't Like?
story of Coyote and the Duck feathers:
his insatiable appetite for Indian land, rights, resources, claims;
1887 Dawes Act: legislation reimagining tribes and tribal land;
stumble of 1934 Indian Reorganization Act (right to practice trad'l religion, govt, ed, land)
1953 Termination Act, stripping tribes of federal services and protection
who's allowed to be Indian? termination/enfranchisement legislation re:
status/non-status: blood quantum and two-generation cut-off clause
kind racism, fondness, suffocating paternalism:
unsuccessful authenticity, successful counterfeit successes
why gov't concern in defining Indianness?
sets Natives against one another; legal categories create enemies
deer culling in New Zealand

Afterwords: Private Stories

change the stories we live by: change our lives
compromising stories by printing them?
oral stories public w/ group audience, written ones private, for reading (but t.v.?)
cf. effective, enticing stories of drinking, failure to learn from Exxon Valez spill,
w/ a private story about letting down a close friend, whose child had FASD
we've created environmental, business, political ethics
Want a different ethic? Tell a different story...Potential ethics, seasonal, annual...
"I find it easier to tell myself the story of my failure as a friend...
than to have to live the story of making the sustained effort to help..."
[telling vs. living a story? telling a story in order not to change??]

III. these are King's stories, the ones that "work" for him.
How do they compare w/ those you found and posted on-line?
To what degree do you think his claims are challengeable? supportable? expandable? universilizable?

Think about all these things next week,
as you write a creation story of your own....

what will be the "center" of your creation story?
(what will be created?? where does it begin???)
what strategy will you choose for telling your story,
and what values will that strategy suggest?
what sort of map for living does your tale draw for us?