by Geneva Natal
As a way to represent the different cultures at South Plains College, there was a Native American Heritage Celebration, featuring a storyteller.
Eldrena Douma (th-ow-oo-ma) talked about Native American heritage and culture during
the event held on Nov. 1 in the Sundown Room of the Student Center on the Levelland campus.
Douma gave insight into how Native Americans live and how important family storytelling is to the culture and history.
Douma’s original name from her grandmother was Coolustahweh, meaning blue corn from the Tewa (ta-oo-a) tribe. She explained that names are different among the people in Native American tribes. According to Douma, there are many different names for one person, one for their youth, one for ceremonies, and one for being a dancing deer, where people dance and can be caught by another family, who then claims them as their own. There may be five or more names, but because of this there is a deeper sense of family within the entire tribe. It creates closer bonds, because with each new name is a new mother, father, sister or brother, until they are all united in some way.
“My father told me once, no matter what happens, if you start something, you finish it and you never give up,” Dourma says.
His advice affects her each day, and the advice also serves as a moral for everyone in the tribe. Everyone has a job and must fulfill it to the best of their abilities, not just for themselves, but for others as well. Douma’s great great grandmother was a potter whose work has made it into museums. Dourma was unaware of this until later in her life. To her, this wasn’t famous. The pottery was just family.
Douma has a different job, one she takes seriously, which is to tell her family’s history, including her grandfather’s namesake, which is not actually Douma. Her grandfather, like many others, were forced to change their names to conform and be less Native American. Now Douma tells this story and many others, to inform younger generations of the real history, where they came from, and how her family came to be where they are now.
“That’s what storytelling teaches you,” Dourma explains. “You listen to people that create, how they decided to become who they are, which inspires thinking about themselves, asking, “what is your purpose?”
Douma is a storyteller. That is her job in the tribe, and it was a huge part in growing up with her family and tribe. She met her husband and went to dinner, where they ate quickly, and then went to watch television. But that isn’t her. Instead, she ate slowly to show her respect, and then sat and asked her in-laws about their stories.
“Through storytelling, I realized that many people don’t know where they came from,” Douma says. “Helping them realize, that’s what grounds us. When we know those family stories of wealth or hardships, those make us stronger.”
Her husband didn’t even know some of the stories that his father was telling during dinner. Douma was raised to value the experiences of her elders so that she can one day pass on their stories and carry on the legacy. The traditions, lessons, and journeys that each person before or after takes is worth remembering, and Douma has taken on the task of sharing stories with as many people as possible. She said she does this because she has learned that, “We were not brought here for ourselves; we were brought here for the greater good of the people, because you are given gifts that should be given to the people you come in contact with.”
“My father was in a burn accident, and he refused treatment to fix his ear because he was homesick,” Dourma says. “He got teased, but he was grateful to have the love of his family that got him through his pain.”
Family is a huge part of Native American tribes, according to Douma. There is not one, but many different stories, about the strength of family or friend love. Many stories of the past have proven that anything is possible if the family sticks together. Where there is equal give and take from each other, everyone in a tribe is considered family. Through the power of the people who believe in each other, they can do anything.
“History plays a big part in the Native American culture because it stays in the stories and moves down through generations from mouth to mouth,” Douma explained. “According to history, there was a person named Popei who confronted the Spaniards who tried to take over by raping, stealing, and hurting the Pueblo people. Him, along with other tribe members banded together to force them out. But they took with them some Pueblo people by force. Some stories say the Pueblo people went willingly; some say that the Spaniards took them by force.”
The history shows the struggle and heartache that the Native American people had to endure before they found peace. The Pueblo tribes today still pass on this horrible story to younger generations to prove the power of the people. Despite the horrific event, the Pueblo tribe has proven there is strength in history, family, in the hearts of each member of the tribe, and a story to go along with each lesson.
“I feel like I am reaching out to more people doing what I am doing,” Dourma explains. “I asked myself, “Am I doing my purpose?” and, “Yes, I was, because it feels good and natural.”
She travels representing many different tribes in the area. She is a former teacher with a master’s degree in early education. Her unique voice as a Native American and her stories affect the audience in many ways.
She uses her gift to teach lessons in the form of a story, including a few stories she told during the event called “The Horny Toad Lady and the Coyote” and “Balancing the Moon.”
The first story was about a coyote who wanted a song so badly from the Horny Toad Lady. He then lost the song, which led him to make rash decisions he regretted. He wished to undo his wrongs. But in the end, he met an untimely demise because he wished for something that cost more than he thought. Throughout the story, Douma used sound effects and explained the meaning behind the stories. “The Horny Toad Lady and the Coyote” is about the consequences of rash decisions and being careful for what you wish for.
The second story was based on friendship, using a roadrunner and a coyote, two enemies in history that are actually friends in her story. The story is a depiction of her external friendship with a friend she calls Coyote Joe, an artist, who likes to meet up with Douma after a long time apart and talk over lunch. The story teaches readers and listeners that two living creatures that are opposites are capable of being friends.
“People come to me and say “Thank You,” because they had forgotten the stories that were told to them,” Douma says. “Others realize they don’t know anything. I tell them if there is anyone alive that can tell them stories, ask them before it’s too late.”
Each story Douma told taught a lesson, allowed for entertainment, and became a reminder of the simpler lessons that are sometimes forgotten as we grow older.