Storyteller teaches Cherokee culture and entertains
He began by saying “bonjour,” then “buenos dias.” Some of the kids had looks of confusion on their faces while one child responded with “muy bien.”
Native American storyteller Lloyd Arneach followed by greeting the children in three other languages including Cherokee, before explaining that he wanted to be sure to use the correct language.
“I consider English to be a foreign language,” Arneach explained. “The language of the first Americans has been spoken a lot longer than English.”
Arneach met with fourth- and fifth-grade students at Seawell Elementary last week to share his Cherokee culture. Sponsored by the Seawell PTA cultural arts committee, Arneach’s visit was a chance to expose the children to another culture.
“The kids need to see a Native American who is alive and doesn’t live in a tepee,” said PTA member and event organizer Jill Austin. “He offers a mix of contemporary and traditional stories and shows that we still have Native Americans, that they are important and they’re in our community.”
Arneach explained to the children that real Native Americans may not be who they think. He said that he lives in a house with indoor plumbing, a telephone and laptop. He shocked the children when he said he owned 100 horses but all shared a laugh when he added that they were under the hood of his SUV.
Of Cherokee, Catawba and English ancestry, Arneach was born and raised on the Cherokee Reservation in western North Carolina where he learned different legends from his two storytelling uncles who also lived on the reservation.
Arneach is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Before he became a storyteller, Arneach had a career as a computer programmer, an electrical technician and served in the U.S. Air Force.
Arneach said that he originally became a storyteller “when I found out what bringing home a bad report card would do.”
But he enjoys sharing his stories with children because many of them “have never heard stories like these before.”
Arneach told several stories to the students including the story of why the deer has antlers, the importance of the strawberry and why the Great Smoky Mountains are so smoky.
One of the stories Arneach told the children was “The Story of Tobacco” where the tobacco plant and seeds are stolen by geese that fiercely protected it miles away from the tribe where it was stolen.
Animals with various skills, like speed and size, are killed when they try to retrieve the plant and seeds while a hummingbird is able to bring back the coveted items. Arneach told the children that it’s not what’s on the outside but what’s in the heart that counts.
He added that each animal in the story represents a trait that may appear good in some situations but is not always the best options.
“We use the stories to teach,” he continued. “The story of tobacco, as their comprehension grows, you could use that same story for various lessons. It can also be told around the campfire at night for entertainment.
“It’s good because young people are learning the old stories,” Arneach said.