Storyteller Dovie Thomason, a Lakota and Kiowa Apache, will explore a tragic chapter in U.S. history at 5:30 p.m. May 3 in 402 J.C. Penney Building/Conference Center at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The free event, “The Spirit Survives,” will focus on the forcible use of American Indian boarding schools. It is part of the 33rd Annual St. Louis Storytelling Festival presented by UMSL.
“One of the most compelling stories of our history surrounds the Indian residential schools following the Indian Wars,” said Becky Walstrom, executive director of the 33rd Annual St. Louis Storytelling Festival. “An often unknown history of these schools and the impact they left on the first boarders and subsequent generations is crucial to understanding and valuing the American Indian culture and history today.”
For decades the First Nations of North America suffered the loss of their children to government boarding schools, where they were forcibly “re-educated” to assimilation and “civilization,” at the cost of culture and identity. Thomason will introduce her listeners to the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania and its broad-reaching impact on Indian and non-Indian people since its inception in 1879 and far beyond its closing in 1918. She shades this history with personal memoir, biography of indigenous activists and culture keepers of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the impact of the boarding schools on Indian people today.
“Although painful, it is part of our history and a legacy that must be shared and told,” Walstrom said. “Stories such as this are usually not part of our history books.”
Thomason is a former high school teacher and college professor, and both a traditional and professional storyteller. Her passion for sharing heritage grew from an elementary school teacher who taught her history class that “Indians are extinct.” Her desire to give people a clearer understanding of the misunderstood, often invisible cultures of the First Nations of North America has led to her telling the old stories of her people.
“The Spirit Survives” is part of the 33rd Annual St. Louis Storytelling Festival, which begins Wednesday (May 2) and ends Saturday (May 5). During this four-day festival, nationally known and regional storytellers will lead activities and events at UMSL and various locations through the Metropolitan St. Louis area. Stories shared are suitable for all members of the family, and most events are offered free to the public.
For a complete schedule, full list of featured and regional storytellers, and more information, visit stlstorytellingfestival.org or call 314-516-5960.