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Shoshone-Bannock Teacher Collects Sacred Stories

When the Smoke Goes Straight Up: Grandfather's Stories, retold by Donna Houtz McArthur

Donna Houtz McArthur talks with TWQ producer Chérie Newman about the sacred stories of the Shoshone-Bannock people and reads from her collection When the Smoke Goes Straight Up: Grandfather's Stories.

"Our stories are sacred and were told by our grandfathers and grandmothers to teach us about life. It is up to us to try and save the Shoshone-Bannock stories and the history of our people, so that it is never forgotten. The stories are like our languages; each family might have the same basic story, but told in their own way.... Our stories were to be told in the oral tradition during the long winter months. Grandpa would say, 'when the smoke (qwi'ip) goes straight up into the night air,' that is when you have long nights, and stories were good to ell at bedtime.... The stories were important to help teach morals, values, and how things came to be... The stories were also told to give us pleasure, and for us to pass on to the next generation."  -- Donna Houtz McArthur

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Donna Houtz McArthur
Donna Houtz McArthur

Donna Houtz McArthur, born September 29, 1843, is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes from Fort Hall, Idaho. She's a granddaughter of Edward "Eddie" Edmo, Sr., and a niece of Rusty Houtz. Donna was the first tribal member on the Fort Hall Reservation to receive an Elementary Teaching degree. The retelling of these stories keeps them alive for future generations. Donna and her husband, Dave, currently live near Blackfoot, Idaho.

The music in this program was written and performed by John Floridis and Hovia Edwards. "A Breath of Spring" from the album Morning Star by Hovia Edwards courtesy Canyon Records License #2013-062. All rights reserved

Chérie Newman is a former arts and humanities producer and on-air host for Montana Public Radio, and a freelance writer. She founded and previously hosted a weekly literary program, The Write Question, which continues to air on several public radio stations; it is also available online at and
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