Narrator educates, voices untold tale

By Emily Sokolik


Contributing writer

The Spurlock Museum hosted American Indian storyteller Dovie Thomason at its annual Winter Tales American Indian Storytelling Concert on Saturday.

For twenty years, Thomason, of the Lakota and Kiowa Apache Nations, has traveled throughout North America and Europe telling stories of her heritage through traditional and original stories.

“I use the stories that are the tradition of my native peoples,” Thomason said. “I write original stories mostly to tell some untold histories, and share autobiographically how history affects (my) family.”

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Kim Sheahan, assistant director of education at Spurlock, 600 S. Gregory St., was responsible for bringing Thomason to the University, because she felt Thomason would make a significant impact.

“A story is a journey,” Sheahan said. “Dovie is the essence of the best of storytellers.”

Thomason, who just returned from a performance in England, has performed in venues all over the world. She appeared at the grand opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. in September 2004, she was a performer at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn., and was, as Thomason said, the “first to tell stories on stage at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre since Elizabeth I outlawed storytellers in the 1500s.”

“I’ve told stories everywhere–from kitchens on Indian reservations to castles in Europe,” she said.

Annette Davis of Loda, Ill., attended Thomason’s workshop for educators, also given on Saturday prior to the storytelling event. As an aspiring storyteller, Davis was inspired by Thomason’s technique.

“She uses her voice in very novel ways,” Davis said. “She talked about how her listeners help to draw the story out of her. We were all performers together.”

As a child, Thomason grew up in both Chicago and Texas and learned about much of her ancestry through her grandmother. To Thomason, these stories of the American Indian are important for her to pass on to others.

“Native peoples are marginalized,” Thomason said. “The average American knows little about us. There are untold stories that need to be heard.”

Sheahan said storytelling is a unique form of entertainment.

“When images are provided, like in a movie, you are a passive audience member,” she said. “(Storytelling) is active and creates images in the mind. It tells a history, establishes cultures and values, and lets you know where you belong.”

Thomason said her storytelling is a different but effective approach to learning life’s lessons.

“There are ways to learn not just from books and universities,” Thomason said. “We learn from hearing and walking through life.”

Connecting with audiences who come from all walks of life is Thomason’s favorite part about her craft, she said.

“Quite often, I connect with people whose experiences are unlike my own,” she said.