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LRC 595A - Oral Narratives across Societies

Dr. Sheilah Nicholas

Course Description​ - The focus was primarily on the Southwest Indigenous oral traditions.  The purpose was to illuminate our understanding of how language as a cultural practice, inherent in oral traditions  functions in transmitting symbolic codes of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, behaviors and helps to shape identity.


Learning Objectives - Be able to articulate a rationale/argument on the topics of orality, oral traditions, Indigenous epistemologies/ontologies, Indigenous knowledge and the implications for development of a theoretical and research methodological framework for documenting, examoning and authentically representing Indigenous oral traditions.


Making Meaning...
My Final Project               Download the Paper

I wrote a paper, but also created an oral visual presentation with VoiceThread, which is displayed on the left.


I  explorered how different cultures, including my own handle the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.  In researching these rites of passage, I explored the wisdom that is passed on orally and traditionally.  These may be ceremonies, events or artifacts symbolizing the passage from being a child to becoming an adult. Though these symbols, I expanded upon the epistemology, the ontology and the axiology of the child in passage.


Some examples coming from my own experiences include attending a Bar Mitzvah ceremony and a La Quinceanera event. The artifact symbolizing the passage into adulthood for my family and many like us is the driver’s license.  Each of these symbols of entering adulthood is passed along orally.  Yes, there are some written instructions that go along with the process, but most of the wisdom acquired is through elders teaching and showing the adolescence how to behave, what to do and how to survive.


I also explored other cultures rite of passage.  Yesterday, I asked a man from Vietnam if his country had some kind of rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.  He said for him, it was when his parents gave him a bike.  His sister got a piece of jewelry.  I am not sure what wisdom was passed along, but he said that with the bike he was given more responsibility in the family and his sister was seen as a woman.


There are other rites of passage coming from African cultures as cited by Manu Ampim (  These rights of passage include: Birth, Adulthood, Marriage, Eldership and Ancestorship.  All of these were expanded upon in regard to epistemology, the ontology and the axiology for each passage is a stage in life where wisdom is gained.  However in my final project, I focused on the rite of passage into adulthood.


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