The power of a story

at the 21st annual American Indian Heritage Celebration

On Saturday, November 19 the North Carolina Museum of History hosted the 21st annual American Indian Heritage Celebration. The event brought together all eight of N.C.’s recognized tribes for what felt like a family reunion. “This event is a celebration of the significance of our population here — we have about 110,000 people in N.C. that identify as Native American, that is the largest population in any state east of the Mississippi River,” said Master of Ceremonies, Sandon Jacobs. Jacobs welcomed the massive number of attendees by encouraging everyone to enjoy the pageantry while also imploring guests to make sure they take in the day in its entirety. “We are here to share our story, to celebrate who we are and that we are still here as an indigenous people,” said Jacobs.


Arneach, Eastern Band of Cherokee

Order and respect are integral parts of the traditional Cherokee way of life. The importance of that hospitality and generosity shine through in the uplifting stories Lloyd Arneach and his daughter Dawn Arneach tell. “I’ve been sharing stories at this event for at least eight years and Dawn has been with me for five of those,” said Lloyd. Dawn opened the session with a traditional creation story about overcrowding in the sky vault. The creatures and the animals converse over the struggle and ultimately decide to work together to overcome their dilemma. Animals, especially birds are an Lloyd told three stories during his presentation — two of which involved birds and one on the power of words. “There have been times where I’ll be telling a story and all of a sudden I get a feeling that I need to share a specific one and so I do.” Like many Native American storytellers Lloyd arrives at these events cold and allows the story to come to him.

“I will be sharing a story and all of a sudden I see a light go on and I know it has reached someone,” said Lloyd.

Father and daughter imparting their knowledge through the oral tradition of their culture.


Lynch, Haliwa-Saponi

Senora Lynch is a potter, beader, and basket maker — she refers to herself as a jack-of-all-crafts and she passed her ability to multitask down to her daughter Elizabeth Qua Lynch. Qua has demonstrated beadwork, is a dancer at the event, and she now serves on the planning committee. A mother and daughter sharing the story of their cultural heritage through art.

Senora has been involved with the AIHC for over twenty years and Qua has been right there with her the whole time, “I was the first person invited when the museum decided to showcase American Indians in N.C.” said Senora. “My favorite part is the arrival. You get greeted by your museum family and then your native brothers and sisters.” What was once an event involving only a few has grown to thousands of people, “I hope the public walks away with their spirits being enlightened.” Said Senora. “It is so good that for a day visitors get a chance to see these cultures and traditions continuing and they can take that knowledge back to their community, churches, and schools.” The occasion is so dynamic that before the day is over the energy of the event has you wishing it were longer and already looking forward to next year.

Locklear, Lumbee

Barbara Locklear and her son Marke Locklear have been presenting their passion for their tribe’s tradition at the AIHC since Marke was a small boy. The mother son duo imparts their wisdom through storytelling and art.

“For me storytelling is a slender thread that connects me to my past and keeps me grounded in my culture,” said Barbara. The mantle of storyteller was not one she took up herself. “I realized a little over 35 years ago that when people introduced me they would include ‘the storyteller’ after my name — it was a title bestowed on me by my own community, which means the world to me.” Barbara uses her gift as a teaching artist in schools to create a conversation with students about bullying and the power of words, “I begin by asking them if they can tell me what the most powerful thing is that we possess as people,” said Barbara. I’ve never once had one guess — it is our words.”

Marke is a craftsman and he demonstrates flint-knapping to share the story of his tribe. Knapping is shaping flint, obsidian or some other stone in order to make tools or in Marke’s case beautiful arrowhead necklaces. “I’ve had students come by and talk with me and they all seem to know what the obsidian is because it’s in a video game they play,” said Marke. “And that’s great it gives me a way in to have a conversation about what it’s used for and our traditions.”

A mother and son sharing the depth of their culture through storytelling and art.

A story can be used to teach, to entertain, and to bring us together.


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