Storytelling events in USU hogan
In many Native American cultures, the winter season is the time for storytelling. Traditional storytelling is reserved for the winter months for many tribes, often waiting for the first snowfall before some cultural stories are permitted to be shared. Utah State University Blanding is honoring this tradition by hosting a series of events focused on telling Native American stories.
Beginning on Dec. 4, the USU Blanding campus began hosting storytelling events inside the campus’ Hogan, where students — along with faculty, staff, and community members — gathered to hear Clayton Long, academic support mentor and event organizer, share stories.
“Clayton Long’s Native stories event series underscores the power of stories in shaping culture, sharing ideas, and navigating life’s journey,” said Kristian Olsen, senior associate vice president for USU Blanding. “As a university committed to the dissemination of knowledge, we recognize the richness embedded in cultural stories, encapsulating vast wisdom. I express my deep admiration for Clayton Long’s remarkable effort, and I anticipate that this annual event will not only endure but flourish, becoming a beacon of enlightenment and cultural celebration over time.”
The first event in December was broadcast over video conferencing, with 30 attendees logging in from Utah, Idaho, Arizona and Nevada. Students from the local campus were also in attendance. Long hopes the series will help keep storytelling alive and show its importance for maintaining identity.
“Stories give us our identity,” Long said. “They give us our lessons in life and train us to be better people. They help us progress. They give us ideas for what our lives can become. Storytelling becomes a special way of having an identity.”
During this first session, Long shared the Navajo (Diné) story of the Navajo hero twins, who set out on a journey to rid the world of monsters. Long relates how the story of the twins allows listeners to reflect on themselves and how they can improve as they advance through their lives, especially young people entering adulthood.
“This story actually relates to us today and the types of journeys that we go through as people,” Long explained. “They start as young people and as they grow older, they have hard times, happy times, and all the emotions of human beings. But their story reminds us that you need to have a purpose in life and have ways to overcome choices in life. Those become our monsters to overcome. Making good choices makes you a hero, like the twins.”
In the second event, the story of the twins continued, emphasizing how the heroes prepared themselves and received help from others to have a successful journey. During the story session, members of various USU departments were on hand and added what they can do to help students on their journey at USU.
During the third event, Long recounted how the twins rid the world of many monsters that were killing the Navajo people. During this event, students were reminded of some of the monsters that could be in their lives today, and the university shared resources to help students avoid or combat these modern-day monsters. Students were then invited to create a personal vision board, which they are to share in the final session.
The fourth session talked about the monsters that the twins did not kill (such as old age, poverty and lice). These monsters pleaded with the twins to be allowed to live, so that they could bless the Navajo people.
“The overall reasons to do storytelling, staff and student participation was to have students feel like we are like family helping each other to succeed in life and education,” Long said. “Vision board creations would be an activity where students would share their lives and what reasons why having a university degree would do for them.”
In total, four sessions have been held so far, with the final session set to commence at 5 p.m. on Feb. 7 inside the Blanding campus Hogan. In this final session, students will share their vision boards with one another. Various USU staff members will also share their vision boards. Those interested in attending this event are invited and welcome to participate.
Offering residential campus housing and dining, Utah State University Blanding gives students the personalized attention and small class sizes of a small-town college with the resources of a large university, all while providing award-winning education. With degree options ranging from associate to doctorate degrees, plus technical education offerings in Business, Technical Trades and Health Professions, USU Blanding offers programs that help fuel local economies and empower individuals and their communities. Learn more at blanding.usu.edu.