Date of Award

Fall 1996

Project Type


Program or Major

Reading and Writing Instruction

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

John Lofty


This dissertation examines the participation of indigenous storytellers in a textbook project undertaken by Belizean educators. A qualitative study of these narrators, who contributed both traditional stories and personal narratives, extended from February 1991 until February 1996 in Belize's Toledo District. Featured narrators were interviewed and audio-taped by the author throughout this time period, as they contributed their oral lore to the project.

This investigation reveals the complex interrelationships of anthropological salvage and cultural renewal. Certain contemporary scholars decry what they perceive as the limited pastoral dimension of salvage, which may suggest that the true value of traditional stories lies primarily in the 'golden' past, rather than the dynamic present. Although the Belizean project includes a story collection dimension, this research demonstrates that local narrators frequently target contemporary audiences and engage in the selective maintenance of community cultural knowledge.

Observations of the Toledo storytellers indicate that their improvisational and emergent performances often result in the adaptation of traditional stories to contemporary audiences and issues. Profound moral and spiritual their moral and spiritual teachings to the active maintenance of peaceful communities and sustainable living on the land.

Certain Toledo storytellers are also providing for the multi-lingual insertion of their cultural knowledge and political views into the contested public arena of newly independent Belize's national discourse. Many Creole, Garifuna (Black Carib), and Mayan narrators are adapting Belizean Creole English and English to make meaning and knowledge for cultural renewal. As a result of these expanding discursive activities, the textbook project potentially offers the foundation for a viable program of ideological literacy, one based on the local context and directed toward positive community action for cultural renewal, care for the environment, and community self-determination.