Traditional Artist Spotlight: Esther Stutzman

by Sanna Parikka, OFN Intern

American Indian Kalapuya and Coos storyteller, Esther Stutzman captivated those lucky enough to be present at the OFN Open House event in April. An enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, founding member of the Northwest Indian Storyteller’s association, Stutzman is the primary storyteller for the Mother Earth’s Children theatre. Her family members are also involved with drumming and singing at important occasions around the state.

Stutzman learned the tradition of storytelling from her family members and community elders, and has been practicing all her life. Kalapuya and Coos stories often include animal characters to convey cultural values. Some stories are appropriate for any occasion relevant to their theme, while others are meant for particular times of the year. Kalapuya and Coos peoples regard traditional stories and songs as sacred and particular to those who tell them. Stutzman has only thirteen stories that she shares with the public; the rest are exclusively for family and tribal members.

According to Stutzman, the way you tell a story has a crucial role in bringing the story alive. For example, she uses pauses and varies her tone as well as paces her performance to maintain the suspense of a particular story line.

A cultural educator above all, Esther Stutzman is the Founding Director of the American Indian Youth Camp – now in its 37th year of sharing cultural knowledge and Native traditions to school-age youth.

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