Thomas Doty – Storyteller

Review: Public Performance

Image. Image.

The Power of Stories: Doty and Coyote

By Charlie Hunter
The Siskiyou
May 18, 2009

The artistic storytelling of Thomas Doty captivated the crowd in the Meese Room of the Hannon Library, last Thursday.

The stories centered on the adventures and misadventures of Coyote. The persona of Coyote acts as Doty's partner in the performance. Though merely a character portrayed through Doty's wild and hysterical antics, the skill with which Doty presents Coyote makes him just as real and full of life as the man telling the stories.

Doty performs in a way that allows the stories to come alive to the audience, seemingly transporting them to another time and place. Doty said many of his stories take place in a time that "the native storytellers call the old time, sometimes we call this time myth time, the time when the animals and the people were not so different and spoke the same language, or dream time when stories can be like the dreams."

Some of the stories explain worldly things, some tell of things to do with the tribes and natural features here in Oregon. One of the stories tells of the origin of sunlight. Another describes how a coyote fell from the heavens and crashed into the earth forming Crater Lake. Doty's stories span from the comical personality of Coyote, to the somber realities of death.

Doty is a master of both traditional and original Native American stories. His love and understanding of the magic of stories seems to be the source of his amazing talent, not to forget his 28 years of experience.

"Stories are true on the deepest levels of truth, and for that reason, they survive. They are the teachings, the widsoms, the humanity of what is known. They are the sounds of our memories and our dreams," said Doty on his Web site.

During his performance, between two stories, Doty spoke of the healing power of stories, and the good that they do for humanity. The smiles on the faces of the audience during the final applause confirmed this.

Doty resides at Dragonfly Place in the Siskiyou Mountains of Southern Oregon. Nationally known for his storytelling, he has released several audio recordings and published many books. He has received several awards for his talent, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the national American Indian Program. Doty spends much of his time on the road telling stories and participating in projects. His recent projects include returning the Sacred Salmon Ceremony to its original place on the Rogue River and the installation and dedication of a 20-foot tall native carving titled "We Are Here" in downtown Ashland. His performance in the Meese Room was part of the Hannon Library's Siskiyou Views Lecture Series.