I've just finished reading Linda Hogan's memoir The Woman Who Watches Over the World (NY: W.W. Norton, 2001). It's a painful, moving account of the struggle of a woman of Chickasaw heritage to find a way in a world that has sought to obliterate her heritage.
A passage that leaps out at me:
A spoken story is larger than one unheard, unsaid. In nearly all creation accounts, words or songs are how the world was created, the animals sung into existence. Why should it be different for human lives? We are, as Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday said, made of words (p. 21).
And, echoing it, this one:
Opening the eyes is the job of storytellers, witnesses, and the keepers of accounts. The stories we know and tell are reservoirs of light and fire that brighten and illuminate the darkness of human night, the unseen. They throw down a certain slant of light across the floor each morning, and they throw down, also, its shadow (pp. 113-4).
The world is spoken and sung into existence. This is why it is critically important that those denied an existence in the world--native peoples, the poor, women, gay and lesbian people, and so forth--find some way to give voice to their stories. Telling our stories speaks a world into existence, and makes a place for others of our kind, who may similarly be denied any place in the world, to find the space we've helped to open up and create by singing out the stories of our lives.