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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Jan 08, 2020

MOTHerview with Storyteller Alistair Bane

by Suzanne Rust

Alistair Bane

“If I’m ever invited to church again, I will make sure I have all parties involved sign a hymn-singing waiver.”

What did it mean for you to be able to share your story on The Moth stage?

It was really exciting to be able to share a story about my life, and about my culture, with the Moth Audience. After I did the Omaha show, a young, Native man walked up to me and told me how excited he was to see me because he “never imagined a Native person up there on stage.” It was meaningful to me to be able to inspire him and others, and remind them that they have their own stories to tell. 

I also feel so privileged to have met so many amazing storytellers over the last year, along with all the Moth staff. I frequently think of the stories of those I shared the stage with, and it has made my life richer and more beautiful!

Does Miss Myrtle know she has been immortalized, and has she ever forgiven you?

Since “the incident,” I have not had a whole lot of contact with Miss Myrtle. I’ve seen her a couple of times at Pow Wows over the years, but, as we say in Oklahoma, “she looked at me some kind of way, and I kept on walking.” 

I have not told her about the story, but I’m sure she’ll know about it, because in Indian Country, we all eventually find out everything that everyone else does. 

Have you learned any hymns since that public shaming in church?

I have not. I am hoping that this was a once in a lifetime situation, but if I’m ever invited to church again, I will make sure I have all parties involved sign a hymn-singing waiver.

Let’s talk about your old band, The Flesh Orchids…

Well, if anyone wants to check out music by the Flesh Orchids the CD is available…oh, wait, we never had a CD. The only real accomplishment we ever had was having a very cool sounding name... I also had crushed velvet pants, a matching jacket and patent leather cowboy boots. Doing my hair involved a LOT of Aqua Net Hairspray Super Hold in the pink can. I definitely looked like a star…it was just singing ability, or lack thereof, that got in my way, yet again. There seems to be a theme in my life regarding singing issues. 

What was it like growing up with two religious/spiritual backgrounds, and what made you gravitate more towards traditional Native American practices?

My parents were very different in a lot of aspects of life, and that could be difficult, but it also caused me to ask questions and want to learn about other points of view. I love to learn and to hear other people’s stories. 

When I was growing up, it was still illegal to practice our ceremonies and ways. Many people don’t realize that until 1978, when the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act was passed, we could be jailed, fined, and have our children removed from our homes just for praying in our own way. I even know of a man whose uncle was lobotomized because he would not stop being a medicine man. So, in my generation, many people had become disenfranchised from those ways, including my own family. 

I always had this feeling that something was tugging at me, something I could not explain, was missing, and when I was a young adult, I started going to ceremonies and dances and realized that was what had been calling to me all along. I’ve heard old people say, “It calls you home,” and it does.

When I started coming around to our ways, the medicine people and elders always radiated a kindness and love, and they were encouraging, never blaming, if someone struggled. To me, love is the fertile ground that’s necessary for us to be able to learn and grow, and that’s what I found in our ways. 

Who are your favorite storytellers and why?

I’ve met so many amazing storytellers on the Moth stage! I don’t know if I can pick favorites. There is a very long list of stories that have impacted my life over the last year. My dad was a big influence in my storytelling. He told me many stories about his life, and his words painted vivid pictures so that I almost felt like I grew up alongside him.

One of my favorite ways to spend time is to hear elders from my tribe and others tell stories. While other young people wanted to go do this or that, I always wanted to sit with the old people and hear about their lives. It was always entertaining, but I learned so much as well. Storytelling is the way old people will teach you in my culture. There aren’t any direct lectures or telling a young person what they should do…they just tell stories and then let you figure out how it applies to your own life.

In a nutshell, what was the conflict between the Cherokee and the Shawnee that you refer to in your story?

Miss Myrtle was a bit vague…During the late 1800’s, there were numerous treaties and agreements about what land was to be allotted to which tribe. Families from various tribes intermarried and did business together, and stories about grievances passed down from generation to generation. For the most part, we have very friendly relationships with each other, but there are always a few folks that pass on resentments, like family heirlooms. For the most part, we joke about these things, and we have a lot of fun with good natured kidding between various tribes, clans, and families. Just occasionally, someone takes it seriously.

Storytelling is important because… since creation, it has been the way that we connect, learn, and share emotions with one another.

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Shawnees Never Quit

by Alistair Bane

Alistair Bane reluctantly attends church as his friend's grandmother's "special guest"...

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