Oregon Folklife Network

Esther Stutzman

2012-2013 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional skill/art/craft: Storytelling

Ethnic Background: Kalapuya, Coos

Apprentice: Salista Williams

Contact Information

Describe your traditional skill/craft/art, when and why it is done, and your history with it.

Traditional storytelling in the tradition of the Kalapuya/Coos. I have been telling stories all my life. I work with Indian youth to encourage the art of storytelling.

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

Elders and family members.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

Stories pass on history and lessons. Often, the stories detail epic adventures of tribal ‘heroes and heroines’ who possess moral values that are important to tribal unity. These stories were once passed along as a reminder of the values of tribal groups, who would refer to the stories to teach and reinforce lessons. Unfortunately, today’s world often calls for a more straightforward approach in teaching life’s lessons, with very directive laws and policies that are unbendable. Within the Native culture, the ties to tribal and family teachings are strong and those lessons that need to be at the forefront of Native Society must sometimes be gentle reminders in order to respect an individual’s right to make choices. Because the art of storytelling is so important to retaining the past, these ancient stories cannot be lost or forgotten and our elders constantly worry that this tradition will disappear within a few generations.

Artist Biography

Birthplace: North Bend, OR

Birthdate: 12/1/42

I am American Indian, Kalapuya and Coos, from tribal groups in Western Oregon and an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz. The focus of my study throughout my life has been Indian history and culture and especially storytelling.

I am a former classroom teacher, curriculum developer and program administrator for several Indian programs and projects. Currently, I work as a cultural consultant, artist-in-residence and lecturer for museums, libraries and universities.

My work with Indian Education Programs over the past thirty-nine years has led me to a deep belief in the cultural enhancement of American Indian Youth. It is because of this that I am also deeply involved in traditional youth camps, leadership programs and projects that offer Indian youth a positive self-image and the tools to become leaders and carriers of culture.


Founding member Northwest Indian Storyteller’s Association

Longtime Oregon Folklife Program participant

Primary Storyteller for Mother Earth’s Children, an American Indian repertory theater