Storytelling has a variety of roles in families, communities, and cultures. Storytelling allows generations to share moral, spiritual, and environmental knowledge, to support roles and relationships in the community, and to pass on individual and community histories and ways of surviving. Storytelling grounds knowledge in place and language. Stories have unique power to reveal truths about everyday life or history, and can inspire social or political activism. Ideally storytelling allows reciprocal and respectful relationships to develop between the listener and storyteller. Importantly, stories and storytelling acknowledge, accept, and value ways in which individuals and cultures are unique.
The preference for written knowledge over oral traditions was a major force in colonization that devalued storytelling. Western educational systems and missionary activity perpetuated the loss of history, ways of knowing, and ways of learning that were preserved through storytelling. Valuing storytelling as a method for learning and knowing can have a decolonizing effect. Storytelling as a method within research projects can promote more meaningful and relevant outcomes for people in communities.
“A lot of strength I get is mostly from my grandmother who raised me. And when I think I have it tough, think that I can’t go on and live this life in this modern world, in two worlds; the western and my Iñupiat culture…and I think about it and I think about my grandmother who told me stories about, not having enough, barely making it, being cold- if you didn’t work and survive for your family, you- you didn’t survive. So my forefathers and ancestors I really look up to. And I want my children and children’s children to know about who they were when they complain, because it really grounded me. I took my Iñupiat values back, I take the best part of western world and Iñupiat world and try to have harmony. When there’s so much chaos around sometimes. To have that little piece. Nature, I go to nature. I take a walk by the ocean”.
“I look at it that as myself in my position to try to continue with traditional values and the challenges that we have to face as, as community leaders. Something like this, this project would be beneficial to us because we can hear the stories of people in my generation have because we’re not always connected. But yet, we have the same values.”
Uvaŋali savaaqsraġatigun ikayuqsivlutik piḷgusivunun naaggaunii siġġaġnaqhutiŋnun umialigaatigut uvagut. Una savaaqsraŋa, savaaqsratinmiuvva ikayutauniaqtuq Iñupiagivsiñun tainnaliqaa naalaktikkaagniaqtugut uqalluktuat utuqqanaamiñ kiŋuġaaġiitkamunaglaan atakii kasuummiŋitkaatigut. Aglaan aasii pilgutiqagmatigut Iñupianik.
“What gives me hope? It’s kind of hard, when I think, the culture’s the most important thing to me. And it’s all encompassing. From my day to day duties here, culture’s involved. We’re, most of us are Alaska Native and that’s how we- or Iñupiaq and that’s how we carry ourselves here. We try to live by the values we grew up learning. I hope that we keep doing that.”
“Qanuq piyumiñaqsigivluŋa akkupaaksrak? Siġġagnaqsirut isumaruaqhutiŋ uvvali paisavut nuimanaqtuqaglaan. Uvva savaaksraġa uvlumiñ uvlumunmun uvva Iñupiagivlugut paisavut piiñŋaitchuq. Uvagut Alaska Natives-kitkugut aasii tainna uvagut Iñupiagivut tainnavsaaq nanmaqhutiqaqtuvlugut. Uuktuaqsigivluni iñuugutiqaqsimarugut valuesmignun agligasuumatigugman iḷitchitqaagurut. Piyumiñaqsisuuruŋa tainna kiikavsaagumagiksigut.”
“My father, he always always told me to pass on what I know and what I have learned. So that (younger people) can know how to scrape the skins to make them into mukluks. Or the other day, someone put on Facebook, “I wanna make my parka into a packing parka, what do I do?” I was going to answer but some else did already. You just add onto the sides. And so, so to me, what I have learned from my mother and father and some uncles you have to pass them on and that way my grandchildren can know how to do it if and when I pass.”
“Aapauġa uqallautiŋma aitchivlugutigitka allanun miqłiqtut unauvva iḷitchiyumautiġamnik. Tainnaassii nutaqqavut iḷitchisumiktigun qanukiaq ikuumatikkun kammaliugnikkun kamipiannik. Naagauunii uvlaakutqigumman, aglaŋasuugaa iñuk Facebook-mun inna, “Uvva atiġiga pamiuliuguktuŋa, sunakiagitkiga qanuq?” Kiuŋagaagniasuktuaŋa kiuŋagaaŋaruaq aglaan. Tapiqtiqaaglugu atiġimun saniġaamniñ. Uvaŋali iḷitchitqaagluŋa aakaamniñ aapamniñ ataatalutka, aasii piiqsigniagman.”