Tahlequah native helps preserve art of Cherokee storytelling

07/24/2017 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee storyteller Candice Byrd interacts with children during the “Stories on the Square” event on July 19 in downtown Tahlequah. CHANDLER KIDD/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Since 2014, the Cherokee Nation has hosted “Stories on the Square” to provide the Tahlequah community with traditional oral storytelling shared by Cherokee and other Native storytellers.

This event helps pass down Cherokee oral traditions in downtown Tahlequah each Wednesday morning during the summer months.

Tahlequah native Candice Byrd, 28, is Quapaw, Osage and Cherokee. She helps preserve Cherokee storytelling by participating in the event and telling stories such as “Mockingbird” to children and other regular attendees.

Byrd earned a bachelor’ degree in film, drama and television from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa and earned a master’s degree at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. She has been performing in theater productions since high school, and the subject of her thesis was Native American storytelling.

“I created a one-woman show with three stories based on traditional Native American cultures. I took the Cherokee Spider Story, Osage Spider Story and the Wyatt people’s Spider Story,” she said.

Byrd became interested in storytelling as a child in grade school. Cherokee storytellers Robert Lewis and Choogie Kingfisher had a profound influence on her storytelling, she explained. Her storytelling career began with the Cherokee Heritage Center.

“In 2013 I started working as a villager by playing the flute, being a tour guide, and I began to tell stories there,” she said.

Byrd also grew up with her grandmother who told her Quapaw and Osage stories that have helped shape her oral history of Native cultures. She explained that preserving the tradition of storytelling among the Cherokee and other Native tribes gives the people a purpose.

“What I like about Cherokee and other Native stories is there isn’t necessarily always a happy ending. For example “Mockingbird” isn’t necessarily a happy story,” she said. “Someone makes a decision to upset the balance of something, and there are consequences to be paid.”

To hear Byrd and other storytellers share a piece of Native history, “Stories on The Square” will be offered at 10 a.m. on the lawn of the Cherokee Capital building through July 26. For more information, go to visitcherokeenation.com.


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