Story teller is memory brought to life….
The stories laid down by the ancestors set both the framework and the laws for the contemporary community. The practice of ‘remembering’ in the daily lives of Aboriginal peoples reaffirms their place in the social and physical world. For example, it confirms who they are, what they are to do, and, more importantly, what their relationship is to other beings and objects: animate and inanimate. Social remembrance retains both the ceremonial acts that we would call spirituality and the norms that we would call law. The result is circular. Oral history is the crucial element in the ongoing transmission of identity but it also stems from that identity.
Oral history can be a way of showing the consequences of certain acts that are or would be extremely unlikely to occur, and by doing so set standards for the good, in tune and in balance with the ‘natural’ order. Should the teaching be broken, the result will have a tremendous consequence, usually of the kind we would associate with the supernatural. This kind of “teaching” component sets Aboriginal law apart from other ways of presenting law. Oral history provides access to the unusual for everyone who hears such stories. These special cases of encountering reality are not regarded as extraordinary—they are merely experiences accorded to the gifted; however, everyone potentially can experience them in dreams or in other culturally-acceptable ways.
Though many of these stories and story types are found almost everywhere in the world, what is so significant for Native North Americans is that their stories indicate who and what they are. Storytelling is not just the act of retelling a favourite tale with passive listeners. To say that it is a group sitting around the fire while an Elder or the societal authority relates a story of the ancestors is, in effect, stereotypical and narrow. Oral history is a re-connection to the unimaginable act that occurred in the ancestral past. The language within the stories told is laden with meanings. By extension, language is a creative arena within human life that can be directly linked to oral traditions.