Fright Night Lessons
Guests at the Shako:wi Cultural Center got a special treat this Halloween season when Oneida Elder Birdy Burdick (Turtle Clan) shared some spooky tales.
Shako:wi Cultural Center hosted Fright Night Saturday, Oct. 29. Open to guests ages 9, participants watched and listened to Birdy tell such stories as “Flying Head” and “How to Kill a Witch.”
“All of our legends, our stories, have meanings behind them,” Birdy explained. “I’ve been telling stories for 15 years now. I am an artist and for me this goes along with performance art.”
“One of the stories I will share is called, ‘How to Kill a Witch.’ (Watch Shortened Version Here) It’s a good thing to know, especially this time of year. The whole legend is about asking your Elders what to do in case of emergency, going to them and listening to their wisdom. Of course, I don’t tell frightful stories all the time. But even the frightful stories have a base to them.”
In fact the Oneida oral tradition is filled with wonderful tales told by Elders guaranteed to scare, interest, or amuse. More importantly these stories educate people on how to care for others, and telling and listening to stories strengthens the bonds between people in a community.
Storytellers have their own style, reflected in their words, the pace of their stories, and the drama they infuse in every event they describe. And generations go on to tell the same tales, legends, and lore so the future generations to come will learn what’s right and proper.
Birdy’s interest in storytelling began after having to book a storyteller for a program she was running for Oneida youth. The performance piqued her interest, and she eventually took a women’s studies course at Syracuse University that involved storytelling.
“I took this course and I loved it,” she recalls. “I can well remember the very first time I told a story it was ‘The Story of the No Face Doll.’ When I saw the children’s faces and expressions, I was hooked for sure. I connected with the children and I can say I found my calling.”
Shako:wi Cultural Center is located just off of Territory Road. The center, named after former Nation Representative Richard Chrisjohn (Wolf Clan) whose Oneida name means “He Gives,” offers visitors an in-depth look at the Oneida Nation.
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