Words And Places native literature from the american southwest
 

Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems
with
Leslie Marmon Silko

sitting on a porch are Leslie Marmon Silko, Joy Harjo, and Sandy Johnson
Leslie Marmon Silko, Joy Harjo, and Sandy Johnson

Storytelling

Porch Talk with Joy Harjo amd Sandy Johnson

When I talk about the oral tradition or about the way the people at Laguna take delight in relating stories of incidents that happened either recently or in the past, people say, "Well, that's gossip." And in an Anglo-Saxon tradition one of the things that religious leaders are always warning the people about is, "Don't gossip, gossip is bad." Even now I run into people professionally who feel that way. They don't like to talk about things and people. They like to talk about the weather and the stock market or something—something not having to do with people. But it's very important to understand the function that this kind of telling and retelling of incidents has. It's what holds the community together in a way that goes beyond clan relations and blood relations.

If you listen closely when someone is talking about something that happened two weekends ago at Paguate after a dance, very quickly, other stories that occurred in other places or incidents that occurred in that same place ... in other words, whenever a place or a family or a kind of activity, whenever some things like that are related, at the same time, all other kinds of stories are remembered and told. And it's very important. It's not just a matter of it being gossip or idle. There's nothing idle . . . oftentimes the two words are linked: idle gossip. There's nothing about this at all that's idle. It's a very intense sort of thing, this recalling.

By recalling these other stories which are somehow linked to this place or to this person or to this kind of activity, it begins to put everything into kind of ... not just into a context, but it puts things into proportion, and it begins to link the people, individuals. It begins to link the individual to the rest of the people in a kind of very essential way so that the same kind of thing that just happened to you last week, well, we'll tell you about the other people it happened to and other people and all of a sudden you're not alone in what happened.

You can begin to laugh at things that happened. I guess another function in all this is helping, enabling, the individual to begin to see things not just as me, alone kind of way, but to begin to see one's experiences, one's fate, one's tragedies in terms of something not just yourself but everyone else, so that it brings everyone closer, and it makes you seem much more like a part of the stories. And the next time something happens, your story's going to be right there with all the others, and so these things link and it helps the individual right now. It brings the individual in touch with things and people that happened a hundred years ago." There's sort of a continuity. In other words, this telling is a creating of a kind of identity for you so that whatever kind of situation you find yourself in, you know where you are and you know who you are. It's that whatever you do, you never feel that you're alone, or you never feel at a loss for. , . . You're never lost, you're never lost.

Return to the contents page for
Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems

By This Song I Walk: Navajo Songs | Seyewailo: The Flower World Yaqui Deer Songs | The Origin of the Crown Dance: An Apache Narrative and Ba'ts'oosee: An Apache Trickster Cycle | Iisaw: Hopi Coyote Stories & Hopi Songs | Natwaniwa: A Hopi Philosophical Statement | Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems | Songs of My Hunter Heart: Laguna Songs and Poems | A Conversation with Vine Deloria, Jr. | Home