Christopher B. Teuton

“Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liars’ Club”

“I came to SAR to complete a book project called ‘Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liar’s Club,’ and with the support of the Katrin H. Lamon Fellowship, I’ve been able to accomplish that task. Cherokee Stories of the Turtle Island Liar’s Club is a collection of stories and teachings from four Cherokee elders—Mr. Hastings Shade, Mr. Sequoia Guess, Mr. Sammy Still, and Mr. Woody Hansen. It’s a seven-chapter work that tells oral traditional stories and oral traditional teachings, and it’s based on several years’ worth of oral recordings that I accomplished when going back home to Oklahoma to work with the Liar’s Club.”

From the Interview

“In Cherokee there is really no word for storyteller. The closest word we have is the word for liar. Like other Southeastern peoples, Cherokees often use the term liar to describe a storyteller. Someone who’s telling lies is someone who’s telling stories. But for the Liar’s Club, this is a kind of tongue-in-cheek term to describe what they do, because these gentlemen are four respected elders who are well known within the community as some of the most important Cherokee storytellers out there. The stories that they tell, they call ‘lies,’ but as everyone knows, there’s a great deal of truth in these stories.”

Why does your work matter?

“When I think about ‘work that matters,’ what comes to mind is audience—who is going to be reading this work that I’ve been writing for this whole year? And for me, working with the oral tradition, I realized that I am simply a conduit through which this knowledge, these teachings, these stories are passing. As all the members of the Liar’s Club say, these stories aren’t their stories. “Oddly, there is no precise word in Cherokee for storytelling. In a language full of puns, the term used instead is gagoga, the word for lying.”—Christopher B. TeutonThey’re the stories of their elders, who were given these stories by their elders, and back and back even farther into time. So the stories that I’m writing in this book and the teachings that I’m presenting are not mine at all but belong to the Cherokee people as a whole. So when I think about ‘work that matters,’ I hope that this book will matter to those future generations of Cherokee people who will be reading these stories, reading stories of their family members, of their ancestors, and that’s my great hope, that this will matter to Cherokee people as a whole, and to anyone who’s interested in Cherokee oral traditions and teachings.”

Find out more about Christopher B. Teuton by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

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