Monday, March 31, 2008


Edward Chamberlin, Canadian professor of English and Comparative Literature, shared the following story, an incident from which he derived the title of his book on stories and national-cultural identification: If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?

"It happened at a meeting between a [native America] Indian community in northwest British Columbia and some government officials. The officials claimed the land for the government. The natives were astonished by the claim. They couldn’t understand what these relative newcomers were talking about. Finally one of the elders put what was bothering them in the form of a question. “If this is your land,” he asked, “where are your stories?” He spoke in English, but then moved into Gitksan, the Tsimshian language of his people – and told a story. All of a sudden everyone understood…even though the government foresters didn’t know a word of Gitksan, and neither did some of his Gitksan companions. But what they understood was more important: how stories give meaning and value to the places we call home; how they bring us close to the world we live in by taking us into a world of words; how they hold us together and at the same time keep us apart."

“If this is your land, where are your stories?” This question carries with it the importance of a people’s story and its contribution to their sense of identity and community. It is interesting here how identity is tied to land – possession of it – and to history and culture. What’s even more interesting is that story is the glue that holds it all together. The original inhabitants in this factual tale told by Chamberlin seem to be saying: “Our land, our language, our stories, our history, our heritage, our identity – our very being of who we are – are all tied up together, are all integrated.” To challenge any one of these, they imply, is to challenge all the others.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Who am I? Where do I belong? What are the accepted norms of behavior for me? A people’s stories help answer these questions; while their stories also help shape their answers. These questions touch on the very core of being – identity, community, culture, etc. Cultural anthropologists, sociologists, ethnographers, and cultural researchers seem to agree that to investigate the idea of self and all that self means, one does it by way of an individual’s stories, along with the stories of his or her historical, societal, and cultural self. It is through these stories that self is revealed – whether the individual self or the “self” of a community, culture or society. At the same time, these experts say that to influence an individual, and ultimately his or her entire culture or society, it is best and most effectively done through stories. This is already proving true in the areas of business management and corporate culture, and in the area of using stories in emotional healing. What do you think and why?


Cultures are dynamic and are always in flux. What happens, however, when there is evidence of an eroding values system within a specific culture? Can a particular culture’s worldview intentionally and substantially change? It is unarguable that one’s worldview, culture and values are entrenched and to influence the alteration of these is difficult. However, the idea that affecting one’s worldview, culture and values to the point of change is not impossible. What this discussion proposes is that worldviews, cultures, and values can indeed be changed, resulting in not only the transformation of an individual’s life, but an entire culture as well. Storytelling in particular is a catalyst that can bring about substantial changes in worldview, culture and values. What do you think and why?