Tribal storytelling and modern challenges


On Saturday morning Sherrie Smith-Ferri, of both Coast Miwok and Dry Creek Pomo descent, played a recording of her grandmother’s older sister, a Dry Creek Pomo woman, telling a creation story. After the coyote begged the creator to make people, the creator finally told the coyote to plant feathers that created different groups. When he planted a morning bird’s feather, it became the Dry Creek Pomo, which is why they speak softly and slowly “but they always get the job done.” The story was part of a three-hour storytelling class during the Big Time Festival in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Then Eric Wilder, of the Kashaya Pomo, told the story of his grandmother, a spiritual healer, as well as a myth of how humans, animals and plants agreed to live in harmony; if the humans ate the plant and the animals, they would honor them through quarterly rituals, practices that Mr. Marshall says have fallen away and, he says, caused harm to the earth. Bradley Marshall, a tribal council member of the Hupa, told the modern tale of his 3,000-member sovereign nation that is fighting for their water rights in the Trinity River, in Northern California. “If we lose our water, and our fish, we lose our way of life,” he said.