NORTH FORK– I remember as a child my mother would always tell us stories about the “boogeyman” that came to get little kids at night if they didn’t go to sleep. Those days are long gone and it’s been a while since anyone has told me a story, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the Mono storytelling event to hear Elders Gaylen Lee and Leona Chepo.
Entering the North Fork Community Wellness Center and there were chairs set out for guests, snacks available, and the mood was set with gentle flute sounds that traveled softly throughout the room.
The Elders told stories that covered topics such as how land was made, why foxes have bushy tails, why skunks have stripes, and why is there a big black rock in the middle of Mono Lake, among others. Most of the stories were very comical and it seemed like a way to keep children entertained, while teaching them important life lessons.
Somewhere along the story an Elder would sing a little bit of a song. It is said that every animal has a song for them so, if you see them out in the wilderness, that’s the song they sing.
Coyote seemed to be the star of the show in most stories. The coyote was always the sneaky foolish animal that taught children there are consequences for bad behavior. I learned that although the coyote was represented as a mischievous character, coyotes are traditionally thought of as a partner in the woods. It is also said that a common rule when out hunting is — you never shoot at a coyote. And, if you see one, they are often always looking for something to eat — so be sure to follow it and you will find water or even food.
Every older generation enjoys passing traditions down to the younger generations and, by experiencing the Mono storytelling, I enjoyed the way these stories are shared while also incorporating life lessons. I left the event having a better understanding for the importance of these stories and learned this is one of the many ways the Mono have preserved their culture over time.
The Sierra Mono Museum is a non-profit, non-casino funded Museum that is working to preserve the Mono culture, history, artifacts and stories. According to its Facebook page, the Museum operates 99.9% on generous donations and support from the general public, tours, fundraisers, and gift shop sales.