April 2008 Artifact of the Month
Artifact: Frog Story Teller
Stories were an integral part of a child’s life. Like the games, toys and dolls they played with, stories were meant to entertain and to educate. Many of life’s important lessons as well as the traditions and values of the tribe were passed on to the next generation through these tales. There were stories about religion and stories that explained creation. There were stories of caution and instruction to guide behavior.
In many tribes stories and songs were owned by specific members who alone could recite them. Imbued with spiritual power, other stories and songs were considered sacred and the right to share them was reserved for specially chosen people.
The clay figures on display in the “Children of Native America” exhibit in the Schingoethe Center are called Storytellers. They are made by the Pueblo people and depict the delightful experience of children being told or sung stories. Helen Cordero made the first Storyteller figure in 1964. It represented her grandfather with children swarming over him: on shoulders, lap, back and arms.
This Frog Storyteller by Martha Arquero of Cochiti Pueblo depicts a frog with its mouth wide open, showing a small fly on its tongue. One imagines that as he was telling a story to his little ones, a fly happened by! The potter reminds us that animals as well as humans pass wisdom down from elders to youth. Arquero won a red ribbon for this piece at the 1980 New Mexico State Fair. 1989.6.114