Understanding the World Through Stories
For thousands of years the Indians of Arkansas and the South used stories to understand their origins and explain the ways of the world. Stories identify relationships connecting living communities. Stories illustrate proper ways of using the gifts people are given, and teach the consequences of misusing those gifts. Stories tell how to restore order and balance when things go awry. Finally, through stories people learn how to make their communities prosper and endure from generation to generation.
The stories containing these lessons are not “myths” in the sense we generally use the term. They are much more than that. They furnish principles that both guide and account for peoples’ experiences in the world. They offer parables for exemplary living and examples of ways to respond when changes come into the world. These stories are not limited by the facts and figures that fill our histories; they deal symbolically and metaphorically with how things came to be, how things might become, and what consequences might result from different ways of living. As such, these stories are an important part of the histories created by non-literate societies who depend on oral strategies and community performances to manage and communicate information.
Finally, these stories establish a sacred cosmological setting for human actions. The things people do to support their families and their communities become symbolic re-enactments of original creation events. As people re-enact these events, sacred history accumulates in their lived experiences. For Indians, this history is an active and integral part of their day to day existence.