Adult learning through storytelling: A study of learning strategies and philosophies of American Indian storytellers

J. Rachel Green
College of Education, Oklahoma State University
January, 2006


The number of Native American storytellers in Northeastern Oklahoma has reduced dramatically. The storytellers in the Cherokee, Creek, Kiowa, and Keetoowah tribes hold the stories, history, culture, and connection to tribal identity. With the loss of storytellers comes a loss in tribal identity and community connection. The purpose of this study was to describe the current status of storytelling in Northeastern Oklahoma, the factors that resulted in the reduction of storytellers, and the teaching and learning strategies that had been incorporated by the remaining storytellers. The population was determined through identification of tribally recognized storytellers who were or had attempted to teach another adult the skill of storytelling. The data were collected through qualitative means with instrumented data utilized for support. Interviews were held in the most naturalistic setting possible. They were tape recorded and transcribed. The interviews were studied for common themes. These themes resulted in further interviews with all but one of the storytellers. Some were interviewed multiple times.

The findings identified themes that affected storytelling. These themes included public and private venues for storytelling and the gender roles for each venue, the loss of storytelling correlating with the loss of tribal identity, the loss of the integrity of the original tribal stories, the role of storytellers as teachers, and the lack of priority placed on sustaining storytelling in Northeastern Oklahoma. Recommendations were offered including supporting women storytellers in public venues, the identification of stories by tribe, the inclusion of the Lost Generation, the support of storytellers as guides in teaching, the implementation of Problem Solver learning strategies preference process in the teaching of storytelling, and the piloting of storytelling projects at Sequoyah High School and Talking Leaves Job Corp.