Thomas Doty – Storyteller
About Thomas Doty
Native Roots in Southern Oregon
Thomas Doty was born in southern Oregon where he still lives. His family background is Irish, English, Takelma and Shasta. His European ancestors were Mayflower passengers whose descendants traveled the Oregon Trail, settling near the Rogue River in the 1800s. One of Doty's ancestors sailed with Sir Francis Drake and first set foot on the American west coast in 1579. His Takelma and Shasta ancestors were from the native village of Coyote's Paw along the Klamath River near the Oregon-California border.
Doty spent his youth exploring the backcountry with his dog Tippy, hiking and camping with family and friends. Night after night, in the light of a campfire, he listened to stories about relations who have called southern Oregon home for generations. This included native stories told by Grandma Maude.
In the 1970s, Doty studied writing and theatre at Southern Oregon University and Reed College, and he spent time listening to storytellers in England and Ireland and in southeast Alaska, the homeland of the Tlingits. In 1981, he returned home to the Rogue Valley and became a storyteller, learning his art from native elders. He currently travels the countryside performing Doty & Coyote: Stories from the Native West. A lover of journeys, he saunters through the places stories come from. He listens to folks tell their stories. He composes stories. Thomas Doty participates in a living oral tradition.
Thomas Doty is the author of a series of Doty & Coyote books. Many of his stories have been broadcast on Public Radio and he is included on the Oregon Literary Map. Doty is also a master teacher. Several of his students have entered careers in storytelling and theatre.
In 2001, Doty wrote and directed Two Sisters, Two Brothers, and a Journey, a native play that tells the story of the Takelma people of southern Oregon. The world premiere was blessed by Takelma elder Agnes Baker-Pilgrim.
In 2016, Blackstone Publishing released Doty Meets Coyote, a collection of 40 native stories by Thomas Doty, including a paperback book and an eight-hour audiobook narrated by Doty.
Thomas Doty has received several awards, including a Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award from the national American Indian Program. For several years, he served on the international Board of Directors of CIRCLE, the Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language and Education located at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Doty's projects include designing a native tile for the Peace Wall in Ashland, Oregon in 2010, installing a rock writing exhibit in a museum in Talent, Oregon in 2008, returning the Sacred Salmon Ceremony to its original native site on the Rogue River in 2007, and the installation and dedication of We Are Here in 2006, a 20 foot tall native carving in downtown Ashland. In 1986, Doty co-founded and currently co-directs Reading the Rocks, a project dedicated to protecting and interpreting native rock carvings and paintings.
"My stories are for people of all ages," says Thomas Doty. "Children delight in the mythic adventures of Coyote and Bear and Raven. Adults look beyond the narrative to see what the stories offer a world searching for solutions."