|HAUDENOSAUNEE ORAL TRADITIONS|
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Stone Giant, 1978 soapstone by Joe Jacobs, Cayuga
|Traditions, history lessons, and ways of behaving can all be taught by
stories. Haudenosaunee honor those who speak and remember well. Artists also
Here, artist Joe Jacobs depicts the Stone Giant who lived in the rocks. Traditional enemies of the Haudenosaunee, the Stone Giants were much feared cannibals. They lived in upstate New York before the Haudenosaunee, and they resisted being destroyed. Like giants everywhere, they eventually were outwitted. When they died, their bodies became stones. That is why there are so many stones all around us. These stones remind us of the Stone Giants.
Haudenosaunee have always been acknowledged as great orators. To speak eloquently, to be able to persuade, to be humorous, and to communicate well are considered great talents. If a young person showed that he had a good memory, he would be trained to remember the history, treaties and other important events. At certain times, he would be asked to recite those historical accounts and/or speeches so that the people would remember and learn from the past.
The chiefs and their helpers must be able to recite the ceremonial speeches that are passed down through the oral tradition from generation to generation.
Another important part of the oral tradition is storytelling. Stories are told to teach, to influence behavior, to explain why things are the way they are in the natural world, and for pure enjoyment. Oral tradition is an important part of Iroquois culture.
Mohawk storyteller, Kay Olan at the Iroquois Indian Festival