The Intersection of Karuk Storytelling and Education

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Lenk, Waylon
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
The Karuk Tribe is located in northwest California along the mid-stretch of the Klamath River. An understanding of Karuk dramaturgy cannot be complete without understanding traditional Karuk storytelling. And an understanding of Karuk storytelling cannot be complete without understanding its interaction with forms of education. The stories told by the Karuk people and the way in which they are told are intimately tied to the tumultuous changes that have occurred in pedagogical goals and structures over the past 160 years. To approach a better understanding of Karuk dramaturgy, this thesis shows that the intersection between storytelling and education exists in three different, but interrelated and overlapping realms. The first is classic Karuk education and the role of storytelling to support the goals of personal and communal empowerment. This thesis looks at the fundamental goals of this classic education, as well as three core institutions in it - sweathouse, menstrual practices and mountain training - and the way these goals and institutions are infused by traditional storytelling. The beginning of the thesis considers how classic education existed before being overrun by American scholastic institutions, and ends with a look at how it is being revived today. The second trend is the assimilatory goals of establishing American schools in Karuk country, and removing Karuk people from that country to go to the schools. The rational behind these goals is deeply infused by American and Christian mythologies. These stories were told in the boarding schools, and continue to be told in many public schools where Karuk students study. The third trend exists somewhere between classic Karuk education and assimilatory American education, and involves telling Karuk stories in the scholastic and academic settings. This thesis shows of educational structures pose an significant factor in changes and continuance within the practice of Karuk dramaturgy, specifically the realm of storytelling.
55 pg.