Clipper Staff Writer
LAYTON — There was a mixture of anger and sadness, of pride and of purpose in the stories and opinions shared by Dovie Thomason at Northridge High last week.
Thomason spent two weeks visiting Davis County schools and sharing her heritage through stories.
Though she now lives in Pennsylvania, her roots are in Texas, New Mexico and Chicago and her ancestors are Lakota and Plains Apache.
She spoke warmly about being in the mountains again and about her visits to Utah’s Fremont State Park and Nine-Mile Canyon to see petroglyphs with Utah students.
“It’s amazing to meet Utah kids who haven’t been to these sites,” she said. “They’re world historic sites that globally, people come here to get in the canyons and see these images in the rocks.”
The petroglyphs, she said, are messages across time.
“Who knows what they’re trying to tell us,” she said.
Thomas said she draws her pictures with words.
A storyteller, she shared stories of the heartache of children removed from their homes between 1879 and 1918 and forced to attend “industrial schools.”
At the schools, their hair was cut, defying sacred traditions, and they were required to work long hours before and after school. They were often subject to abuse, and were not allowed to return to their families for many years.
While many who suffered became addicts or abusers or committed suicide, others became healers, helpers, counselors and doctors, she said.
“There are all kinds of positive reactions,” Thomason said, not only from those who experienced the schools, but from those who have since learned of them.
Some may say: “They meant well, get over it,” she said. Others may say: “I’m so sorry.”
She shared an analogy she’d learned elsewhere regarding buffalo chips.
The buffalo chips, she said, can’t be used when fresh. Only after they’ve dried are they effective as fuel.
It is the same with negative histories, she said.
“I suggest that rather than guilt or shame, anger or denial, that we look at it as fuel to make illumination, to make light, to shed light.”
She told students they could expect the United States to offer an apology, much like those offered in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in the next five to 10 years.
Thomason shared legends that were handed down in her family and pointed out that one legend, a story that told of the “Big Man,” showed an understanding of some of earth’s sciences.
The Big Man came out of the earth “when the rocks were soft,” she said, indicating those who passed the story along had an understanding of earth’s natural history. The Big Man’s interaction with animals and humans also seemed to be proven in bones and fossils that have since been found.
The stories also show the differences between the powers of kindness, possessiveness and rage, and the power of words well spoken.
“We’ve had these stories for thousands of years, and they tell the science of history and literature all together,” she said. “They’re why we need to talk and listen to each other.”
Storytelling is a great way to learn about any culture, said Thomason.
“Any culture inbeds their culture in their stories,” she said.