Children learn about Cherokee culture through Lewis' tales

Jordan Gogo | Daily Press

Robert Lewis, Cherokee storyteller, entertains the audience during Stories on the Square, an event series hosted every Wednesday morning at the Cherokee National Peace Pavilion.

Storyteller Robert Lewis delighted children and their families with his funny spin on traditional Cherokee tales Wednesday morning.

During June and July, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism hosts its annual Stories on the Square. Each week, a different storyteller is invited to entertain dozens of children, with this June's audiences exceeding an unprecedented 200 listeners.

“Originally, we used to have it in the gazebo,” said Janelle Adair, Cherokee Nation Businesses interpretive guide. “Since this event has grown so much, this newly-built pavilion became the perfect place.”

Stories on the Square began in 2015, when Adair first began working for CNB.

“My boss approached me because he knew I was a storyteller,” said Adair. “He asked me to start an event to teach people these traditional Cherokee stories.”

For the event’s first two years, Adair was the sole storyteller every week of June. On its third year, the event expanded to last through July, prompting CNB to begin inviting storytellers to make it easier on her. 2019 marks the fifth year of Stories on the Square.

This week’s storyteller was Robert Lewis, who made the audience laugh throughout the entire duration of his performance. Following him was the Cherokee Youth National Choir.

“I tell the same stories every time, but the fun part is seeing the audience’s reaction,” said Lewis. “Storytelling is also an important aspect of our culture. We teach children things like morality and the importance of taking care of family.”

Lewis graduated from Northeastern State University with an art degree and began storytelling when he worked at the Cherokee Heritage Center. Since then, he has pursued it as a profession, traveling to New York, Seattle, Alaska and more to spread Cherokee culture across the country. According to Candice Byrd, CNB Cultural Tourism coordinator, Lewis is a big influence on her as a storyteller.

“This is a chance for young folks to experience stories they may have never had the chance to hear before,” said Byrd. “They learn valuable lessons from the stories, but even more than that, they learn listening skills that can serve them throughout life.”

CNB hopes the children listening to these stories today grow up retaining what they learn about Cherokee culture.

“We want to be planting seeds in some of these kids to take what they learn about our culture and spread it to others,” said Adair. “When I was a kid, I never thought I would grow up to be a storyteller. But here I am, and it’s great.”

Check it out

Stories on the Square is every Wednesday in June and July at the Cherokee National Peace Pavilion, located at 177 S. Walter Ave. Storytelling begins at 10, with additional activities available after the performances. For more information, call Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism at 877-779-6977 or visit http://visitcherokeenation.com/events/Pages/Stories-on-the-Square-2019.aspx.