During the summer, I had the opportunity to interview educator and storyteller Mike Lindsey, or “Writingbear,” his name used for storytelling, prayer and ceremony. He will be sharing a story at the Tucson Humanities Festival this year. He has lived in many places and shares stories to various audiences.
The 12th annual Tucson Humanities Festival, STORYTELLING, will take place at the University of Arizona from October to November. The festival will have a series of local events, lectures, and special guests presented by the College of Humanities. Lindsey will perform on Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. To learn about more events at the festival, visit humanitiesfestival.arizona.edu.
Lindsey has lived in many states and a foreign country as well, including Tennessee, Washington D.C., Florida and Japan. He says living in a variety of places does have an effect on your storytelling. That includes the experience accumulated over the time spent in these places and the awareness gained.
Lindsey elaborates on this awareness, describing a “fish and water” as a person and his or her environment. When living in a different culture, you are aware of your own culture, he explains. As an example, living in the Navajo Nation made him realize more about his own culture, because he saw the differences between his and the surrounding culture.
I asked whether a good family life is important or not towards storytelling. Lindsey agrees that family is important because stories are told by family, and he explains how his grandmother, also a storyteller, was the most significant influence throughout his life and storytelling, even after her passing. Lindsey has Cherokee heritage on both sides of his family.
Lindsey went to graduate school for a master’s in teaching English, which he taught in Japan. He has served many positions in a variety of places, including he Council of Native American Baha’i Institute (NABI), and the Library and Information Services Coordinator at the Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) which he recently retired from at the U of A. Lindsey shares his stories at schools, museums, festivals and pow-wows. Lindsey is working on two novels, a mystery taking place in Japan in the late 1970s, and one based on his experience in Native American Country. He produced a CD of his stories called “Stealing Horses.”
When Lindsey was in Florida, his health started to deteriorate due to a chronic illness. When his illness got worse and Lindsey was ready to lose hope, he found that a friend had an alternative healing clinic. While recovering, Lindsey would sit resting at home, not able to read or focus, but have dreams and visions. These made him recall the stories told by his grandmother.
Lindsey cannot tell his story outlines beforehand, because the guidance can come to him anytime. This guidance tells him how many stories, the story topic, etc. Lindsey explains that Native American stories, the majority of stories he tells, aren’t like Aesop’s fables. Aesop’s tales have direct morals. Lindsey’s stories are “to teach indirectly.” Lindsey says that he makes observations from his audiences. Then his story is steered by one of these three things or a combination: entertainment, inspiration, and guidance.