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Home > Children's Authors > Robert Lewis

Robert Lewis
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Robert Lewis is an award-winning Native storyteller, author, and artist of Cherokee, Navaho, and Apache descent. He has contributed two forewords to Wisdom Tales books. The first is in Pine and the Winter Sparrow (available in February, 2015), which was written by Alexis York Lumbard and illustrated by Beatriz Vidal. His second foreword is to Red Cloud’s War: Brave Eagle’s Account of the Fetterman Fight (available in June, 2015), written and illustrated by Paul Goble.

Robert works for the Cherokee Nation as a school and community specialist and conducts outreach classes and services in art, culture, and storytelling. He is also Adjunct Professor of Art at Northeastern State University, where he teaches classes in art and native crafts. Robert has appeared on local television and radio programs to share the wisdom and beauty of Native stories. As part of the Cherokee Nation cultural outreach program, he also travels the country to perform before a wide variety of Native, school, college, museum, festival, and art market audiences. He is the winner of the Dreamkeepers Perry Aunko Indigenous Language Preservation Award and the Cherokee National History Society Seven Star Tradition Bearer Award.

Robert was first introduced to the world of storytelling by his parents. He relates how “At the age of seven I heard my first traditional story and it came from my father, Yazzie Lewis, on a family vacation. We had stopped at a rest area and he brought our attention to the night sky and started telling about the creation of the Milky Way and why the stars are scattered across the sky. I had stories read to me by my mother, Lou Aline (Kingfisher) Lewis, from books but to hear an explanation for the universe, while looking at the starry sky was an extraordinary experience and I never forgot it.”

He became a storyteller in spring 2003 while he was working at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tallequah, Oklahoma, as a tour guide for the ancient village: “I had the opportunity to tell this story to a group of schoolchildren and parents waiting for a tour to begin. During the course of the tale, Barbara Girty, who at the time was in charge of group tours for the museum, heard me and so began this unique journey I find myself on.”

While researching and gathering stories from elders, storytellers, books, and magazines, Robert was struck by the richness and variety of traditional knowledge and humor passed on from generation to generation. “The traditional stories are a voice for cultural identity of a particular tribe’s lineage and heritage, a vital link to preserving the rich oral traditions and I find myself fortunate to be one of those storytellers retelling this knowledge and humor that has been passed down through time. I now find myself collecting stories and even creating new ones.”

As a storyteller, Robert involves his audience in a special way: “I interact with the audience and involve them with the story … and I don’t plan any story that I am going to tell. I start speaking and the stories come out. I tell the listeners that ‘a long time ago all the animals would talk to you, … tell you stories, tell you why things are the way they are’ and in the course of the story someone in the audience may be able to relate the story being told to circumstances in their own life. The driving force behind the traditional story may be an animal, which captures a sense of wonder, pulling the audience into the tale being told, but the undercurrent theme weaving all the spoken images together at the stories end always has a deeper revelation waiting to be heard. I strive to convey this in each story I tell.”

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