Courtesy NISA
Roger Fernandes, Ed Edmo and Elaine Grinnell are among several Native Storytellers in the upcoming ‘A Tongue Sharp as an Eagle’ Festival

‘A Tongue Sharp as an Eagle’: Festival Celebrates 10 Years of Native Storytelling

Terri Hansen

The Northwest Indian Storytellers Association (NISA) invites you to come celebrate their 10th season of storytelling at the Northwest Indian Storytelling Festival, this year from 7-9 pm in Portland, Oregon.

Formed in 2005 to encourage, preserve and strengthen traditional storytelling among tribes in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and to share tribal oral cultural arts with our entire regional community the NISA will feature traditional stories woven from Native cultures presented by gifted elder Native American storytellers from the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

This year, a special evening of storytelling is being held October 15 to coincide with the National Indian Education Association conference in Portland that week.  Native storytellers will demonstrate how storytelling can be used in the schools to engage Native youth to bring healing and traditional cultural values to Native families.

“As essential as sharing stories is to preserve tradition, storytelling is crucial to educating the young,” says artist and storyteller Roger Fernandes (Lower Elwha S’Klallam), who has worked with schools for four decades, and believes in “teaching to the heart of our children.”

“The kids seem to get it,” says storyteller Esther Stutzman, who will perform throughout the festival. Stutzman often tells of the beginnings of her people, Komemma Kalapuya and Coos.

Among other storytellers slated to engage audiences include Ed Edmo (Shoshone Bannock), a well-known Portland storyteller and consultant to the Smithsonian Institute; Elaine Grinnell (Jamestown S’Klallam), who shares stories of her ancestry and the traditional foods of her coastal environment; Raven Heavy Runner (Blackfeet) who shares indigenous cultural values and humor; and Harvest Moon (Quinault), who tells tales of the Coastal Salish with a “tongue as sharp as an eagle” to touch the heart.

The Festival is sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts and Regional Arts and Culture Council and will take place at the First Unitarian Church, on Friday October 15; the Moriarty Auditorium, Portland Community College Cascade Campus, on Saturday October 16; and the Portland Art Museum, on Sunday October 17.

You can find location information and purchase tickets at  For more information about NISA, the festival or Wisdom of the Elders, Inc., e-mail [email protected].  


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