Lessons for Life
Where do you go to learn something new? For our ancestors teaching took place around the fires in the longhouse.
This was a time of passing on family songs, stories, lineage and moral teachings. There are many types of longhouses
in our community; for everyday living, for ceremonies and for learning.
“They told me stories which would create in me the desire to become brave, and good, and strong, to become a good
speaker, a good leader, they taught me to honor old people and always do all in my power to help them.”
—William Shelton, Tulalip Tribal Leader (1868–1938)
Storytellers Have A Gift
When we listen to a story, we might sit back and relax. Our ancestors were much more active in their listening. Stories
told about history, personal feelings, food gathering and traveling. They connected our ancestors to our land, culture
and language. Storytellers shared more than the story itself. Stories also answered questions about life, love and
relationships, providing instructions about appropriate behavior and conduct.
Traditional stories took time to tell. Gifted storytellers engaged their listeners with the stories’ characters by
animating voices and the sounds of nature. People visualized places, feelings, sights and sounds that helped them to
remember a story. Today, churches and longhouses owned and operated by our people continue to follow traditional
storytelling teaching methods and incorporate an interfaith philosophy.
Some stories are owned by particular families, like owning a book—handed down generation to generation within their
family. It is important to respect and remember to acknowledge the person who teaches you a story. Other stories were
shared and all storytellers had the right to tell these stories.