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Native American Storytelling


Folk Tellers

The Healing Power of the Oral Story
Why are we a Social Storytelling Theater?

Written language began about 6,000  years ago.  Modern expository forms of arguments, persuasion, and logic developed from the literacy reading ability.  But only 200 years ago, did the vast majority of humans began to read.  And for the first time in the long history of humankind, we all began to reason in a particular way, called “abstract reasoning” and based upon concepts such as “deductive reasoning.”  Our formal education systems force these particular ways of reasoning upon our children and require us to understand our world through this one way of higher cortical functioning.  It’s as though academia believes that the human frontal lobe did not achieve its unique functions UNTIL the reading skill developed. 

The reality is that the reasoning function of the frontal lobe has been in existence since humans have been telling stories, that being for the past 100,000 years. Before written language, oral stories served to pass history, news, values, cultural heritage, and attitudes from person to person and from generation to generation.   Recent psychological research on the brain development suggests that the particular reasoning function of the frontal cortex is hard-wired for a story-telling type of reasoning as a result of evolutionary biology.

As social storytellers, we propose that our current global crises (whether in environmental destruction of our planet, increased violence among nations, or even the break-down of the family structure, and the rise in youth suicides and loss of cultural values) are partly due to our cultural demand that we “learn to think” in literacy terms only.  We must reclaim our human heritage of storytelling as an important means of educating each other and creating community. 

Haven (2007) has examined over 100,000 pages of research from fifteen different fields that, in some way, touch on how the human mind receives, processes, and responds to stories.   He studied evidence from cognitive sciences, neurological science, developmental psychology, and neural net modeling.  In his integrative book “Story Proof:  The Science behind the startling power of story,” he details vast amounts of data to support the importance of story for cognitive conscious understanding.  He states:   “Results from a dozen prominent cognitive scientists and developmental psychologists have confirmed that human minds do rely on stories and on story architecture as the primary roadmap for understanding, making sense of, remembering, and planning our lives–as well as the countless experiences and narratives we encounter along the way.  Lives are like stories because we think in story terms, make sense out of experience in story terms, and plan our lives in story terms.”  (pg. vii)  Haven states:  “Evolutionary biologists confirm that 100,000 years of reliance on stories have evolutionarily hardwired a predisposition into human brains to think in story structures.” (pg.3)

We also want to integrate our modern storytelling way with all the technology which is grabbing our youth’s attention so fast that we cannot comprehend all the changes happening to their consciousness as a result of this impact.  We could say that the technology appears to be speaking to the 100,000 years of hard-wired story-telling reasoning functions of our brain.  But, it appears to be reaching the pre-verbal part of that reasoning.  Thus, our youth cannot explain verbally what is happening, nor why certain actions and behaviors are arising as a result of that technology impact.  This current fact is also supported by brain research.

Haven states:   “It is also interesting to note that the frontal lobes, which house circuitry for decision making and conscious thought, are not directly connected to the brain areas that process raw sensory input.  Instead, most of their input fibers carry what neuroscientists call “highly processed” input coming from regions one or more steps downstream from the first sensory areas (Crick and Koch 1995).   Unconscious portions of our human brains process raw sensory input and pass it to intermediate processing areas of the brain.  These areas (also in the unconscious portion of our brains) are the exact areas that are activated when humans create stories (Pinker 2000; Newquist 2004; Kotulak 1999).  The output of these regions is fed to the conscious mind for consideration.  In other words, the brain converts raw experience into story form and then considers, ponders, remembers, and acts on the self-created story, not the actual input experience!”  (pg. 23)

Cognitive science shows that the child’s brain development follows the human historical path.  Stories come first.  Then verbal language is developed to express the story concepts.  Then comes written language with its grammar and syntax.  Only much later do other narrative and expository forms emerge.

We strive to integrate the scientific theories of  cognitive brain science, modern theatrical story-telling, Native American Story-telling, the study of Classical Epics, and computer technology, to develop a social theater to reclaim the biological heritage of cognitive conscious reasoning which is more in tune with nature and earth cycles.

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