Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to help a Native American woman complete her oral history. This month, I attended her funeral.
Funerals aren’t generally happy affairs. But this one left me feeling up-lifted. It was a genuine celebration of a well-lived life. And although this very special elder hadn’t made a big show about preserving her story, it was clear at her funeral how very much her memoir means to her family. She’d left an invaluable record — not only for her survivors, but for future generations as well.
What can you leave behind in an oral history or memoir that will be meaningful to future generations? Here are a few prompts that I hope will help inspire your own memoir writing!
- What stories do you remember about each of your family members – especially stories that descendants would love to hear? What was special about each of person? Did they have a nickname?
- What traditional foods did you eat as a child, and how were they prepared? Include a recipe if you can!
- If your family was part of a unique cultural heritage, what do you remember of the traditional medicines, dress, shelters, and ceremonies?
- If your family spoke another language as you were growing up, what were some common words or phrases? Offer a phonetic version, if you can.
- What stories or fairy tales were you told as a child?
- What stories about your family or special words of encouragement do you want to share with future generations?