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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Telling a Tale 'That Needs to be Heard'
by LEIGH HORNBECK Staff writer -

GREENFIELD CENTER, NY -- As a child, Joseph Bruchac sought out stories from his American Indian heritage. His ancestry is also Slovak and English, but it was the Abenaki blood he followed.

When he was a student at Syracuse University in the 1960s, he often rode his motorcycle onto the Onondaga Reservation to visit trading posts, where he listened for hours to stories told by people who became lifelong friends.

After Bruchac's sons were born, he told them stories about Gluskabi, a demigod in the Abenaki tradition. Bruchac began publishing his own books when the personal computer gave him a tool that allowed the quick, frequent revisions that fit his writing style. Now 68, Bruchac is the author of 120 books.

Bruchac and his wife, Carol, who died earlier this year, worked alongside each other promoting Native American culture and traditions. They were married for 48 years. Their sons, Jesse and James Bruchac, joined them in their work and, with their father, run the Ndakinna Education Center in Greenfield Center, which offers programs for all ages on Native American and Adirondack culture as well as wilderness skills. They also host the biennial Saratoga Native American Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which takes place Oct. 1-2 this year.

In 1976, after his first collection of stories, "Turkey Brother and Other Iroquois Stories," was published, a friend invited Bruchac to a school to share the tales.

"I walked in with my book in my hand, I looked around and I thought, 'these kids don't want to watch me read,' and I never opened the book," Bruchac said.

In the 35 years since, he's followed the same practice -- he said he lets his intuition guide him through the vast index of stories in his mind, and chooses the one "that needs to be heard," based on the atmosphere in the school.

"A good story entertains and teaches," Bruchac said, in his smooth, deep tenor.

In June, the National Storytelling Network named Bruchac the winner of the Talking Leaves Award, presented to storytellers who have made outstanding contributions to the literary body of storytelling as authors, editors or collectors.

With his latest book, "Dragon Castle," a young adult novel published in June by Dial Press, Bruchac expanded the source material for his stories to include the Slovak part of his heritage.

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