Terms to Avoid - myth, legend and fable

This week I noticed many of my student teachers were referring to Indigenous stories as myths, legends, or fables. One thing I have learned from the storytellers and scholars I work with is that these terms are inaccurate, and using them diminishes the teachings contained within the stories.

Whether considered sacred or not, many consider it disrespectful to refer to Indigenous oral stories as legends or myths because these stories use metaphor to refer to truths about what non-Indigenous peoples would consider history, the natural world (including scientific observations), law and policy, and international relations. 

You might notice that we never, for instance, hear Bible stories, or stories from other religious or sacred texts, referred to as "myths" in popular culture, because of the connotations of the words.  Therefore, why refer to Indigenous stories as myths or legends? Doing so denies the truths that are carried within, whether sacred or otherwise. However, I also want to acknowledge the difference between religious texts that might be considered to be "doctrine" while Indigenous oral traditions may not be considered as dogmatic. I have also learned that stories are sometimes told differently depending on the speaker or community that holds them.  

Here are some examples of Indigenous oral stories holding truths that have then been confirmed by outside sources that you may want to explore with your class: