Monday, July 22, 2013

Indigenous Storywork

This is a little update on the progress of my book Maps and Memes.  I've given myself a daily quota of 1,000 words.  This fairly arbitrary constraint serves two purposes.  First, since the primary research is done, it gives me some space to explain things a bit better to the future reader.

Now I can talk about things in a way that goes beyond bare bones theoretical frameworks, methods and results.  Second, it gives me a chance to read once I've made the quota.  Right now I'm reading Jo-Ann Archibald's Indigenous Storywork (UBC Press).

The main thing I've learned from this absolutely incredible, delightful book is that storytelling enacts a principle of reciprocity.  I don't think I've ever thought of stories in exactly that way before, or if I did it was an insight in need (for me) of refreshment.

When I was doing doctoral work at McGill I talked in one post about John Edgar Wideman's observation that 'all stories are true.'  I occasionally return to this statement and turn it over in my mind searching for new meaning or insight in its pithiness and seeming absurdity.

I argued before that it is true that all stories are true, in the sense of the listener needing to work to find the intent, the moral, the gist and the whatnot (i.e. what's not said) of any well told story.  A story poorly told or poorly listened to will fail.  It takes two to tango.

Now, how does this apply to maps?  I'm not entirely sure, but here's the start of what I think I want to say about it.  If walking and storytelling are both indigenous methodologies (or part of them...see previous post), then there is reciprocity to both.  This means walking involves reciprocal action.

In many senses this could be true, starting from pure physics.  It is also true in the sense that just about any path walked could have been walked by others, or potentially could be.  Therefore, reciprocity lies in respecting this fact by staying true to our walk's purpose, its destination and those with whom it (and we) interact.

All this means simply being observant of oneself and others, taking heed of maps and signs along the way so we don't get lost, of keeping others from getting lost.  There is an ethics of walking (and probably a book out there somewhere with that title too.)

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