Speaker sheds light on importance of storytelling in Indigenous women’s history


Alex Grado

The Department Chair of Ethnic Studies at Sierra College held a presentation in the Cosumnes River College Recital Hall on Thursday. The presentation focused on storytelling and Indigenous women of California.

A presentation about stories and perspectives of Indigenous women was held on Thursday in honor of Women’s History Month.

Dr. Melissa Leal, department chair of ethnic studies at Sierra College, led the presentation. Leal has a doctorate in Native American studies from the University of California, Davis and spoke about the role that storytelling has played in shaping the Indigenous communities’ history and the significance of preserving their stories.

“We have a place through telling stories,” Leal said. “Every part of our lives is relevant and a part of our stories and a part of other people’s stories.”

Leal mentioned books, such as “Decolonizing Methodologies” by author Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and how they acknowledge the importance of Indigenous knowledge and storytelling. She also credited Deborah Miranda, who is the author of “Bad Indians,” as another big influence on her perspective of history.

Leal also credited Indigenous creators such as Tiffany Adams, Weshoyot Alvitre and Brooklyn Shinabargar and said they are people who “share and create the things that they do, not just for the California Indigenous, but for everyone.”

Anthropology Professor Anastasia Panagakos was a co-organizer of the event and praised the presentation noting that it was particularly relevant to the underlying theme of storytelling.

“I thought it was great,” Panagakos said. “We were excited Dr. Leal could come since the theme for the month is storytelling.”

Panagakos said teachers should aim to help others share their stories.

“We’re here to elevate each other’s stories,” Panagakos said. “These stories often go untold, when we hear others’ stories we learn about ourselves.”

Nineteen-year-old architecture major Shak Allen said they enjoyed Leal’s presentation.

“It was a good discussion to have about Women’s History,” Allen said. “I liked her energy when she talked about the women in her life and how they influenced her.”

There will be more events throughout the rest of the month to celebrate Women’s History Month on campus and over Zoom. More information about the events is available on the Cosumnes River College website and on campus in the Center of Inclusion and Belonging.