Monday, November 7, 2022

The Power of Storytellers

Q: Have you met your literary hero/Author at a conference, or at an event? What was that experience like, or have you maintained your Author crush from afar? 


It's my pleasure to introduce my guest blogger today, debut crime fiction author DM Rowell. Donna,  like her protagonist, Mud, comes from a long line of Kiowa storytellers. After a thirty-two-year career spinning stories for Silicon Valley start-ups and corporations, with a few escapes creating award-winning independent documentaries, Rowell started a new chapter, writing mysteries that also share information about her Plains Indian tribe, the Kiowas. She enjoys life in California with her partner of thirty-eight years, their son, and a feral gray cat. 

NEVER NAME THE DEAD is published this week.

-from D. M. Rowell, Koyh Mi O Boy Dah


I’m going to take liberty with the question and stretch it to include oral literary heroes. My tribe the Kiowa, like most Plains Indian tribes relied on oral traditions, with storytelling being a prized art form. Kiowa legends and historical stories have been passed from one generation to the next, like an oral memory chain. Grandparents were responsible for sharing traditions with grandchildren ensuring the customs and history of our tribe continued generation after generation. 

My earliest memories are of my grandfather, his sisters and his brother sharing Kiowa stories and songs. Grandpa, the late C. E. Rowell excelled at bringing stories to life. He was an artist, master storyteller, and a man of distinction within the Kiowa tribe; a Tribal Elder recognized as the Tribe Historian and Reader of the Dohason and Onko pictoglyph calendars called Sai-Guat, or Winter Marks. The calendars documented Kiowa history from 1830 to 1892 on hides using colorful pictoglyphs of significant events.

As a child in the early 1900s, Grandpa was very close to the then Tribe Historian and last Calendar Maker, Onco. Grandpa’s face would light up when he told me that his uncle Onco gave him his first bow and arrow, and a passion for Kiowa history. Onco taught him the events recorded on the Dohason and Onco calendars, but it was Grandpa that turned the historical chronicles into riveting stories that captured my heart and imagination.

At home, Grandpa’s walls were lined with his flat-style scenes of Kiowa history. He and I would sit surrounded by his paintings with one of the Calendars rolled out in front of us. Grandpa would point to a pictoglyph, nod toward a painting and take me into our past. Grandpa’s stories illustrated with his simple, yet powerful art brought the people, time and events vividly to life in my mind’s eye. 

No storyteller has immersed me so completely into a story as Grandpa did. He inspired me to continue our traditions, to become a storyteller. 


Catriona McPherson said...

What a lovely post, Donna. Thanks for visiting us, Cx

Unknown said...

Thank you!