Ernie Stensgar will be the special guest speaker at the annual Lawrence Aripa Storytelling Address “Oral literature in American Indian Culture: Honoring the Life of Lawrence Aripa,” from noon to 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 4 in Todd Hall, Molstead Library on the main NIC Campus.
Mr. Stensgar will tell stories about Lawrence Aripa, a legendary storyteller of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, and discuss the role of storytelling in traditional American Indian life.
Stensgar is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a former chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council having served on the Council since 1986. He is a former president of the affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which represents 55 tribes and was the Portland Area Vice President for the National Congress of American Indians.
Stansgar is listed among Idaho’s 100 most influential people and is a member of the Idaho Hall of Fame. He was the co-chairman of the Idaho Centennial Committee and has served in many other public service positions.
According to the Coeur d’Alene Tribe webpage, “Lawrence Aripa, who died in 1998, remembers listening to the stories of his great grandmothers, Mattie Garry and Susan Aripa. Mattie was a Spokane Indian who died in 1937 at well over 100 years of age. Susan was a Coeur d'Alene and almost 100 years old when she died in 1931. In the house in which they all lived, each grandmother had her own corner. They didn't get along very well, as Susan was Catholic and Mattie was Protestant. Lawrence remembers going to one or the other corners, and asking for and being told stories that ‘always had a lesson to teach me.’ The stories of Mattie Garry and Susan Aripa continued until Lawrence went to the Jesuit-based DeSmet boarding school. There he was not allowed to speak his native language and soon lost touch with his great grandmothers.”
In addition to storytelling, drawing and painting have always been an important part of Lawrence Aripa’s life. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Aripa worked at the Navy Supply Depot in Spokane, Washington. While serving at the depot, he illustrated an operations and safety manual with cartoon characters he created. In 1972 and 1973, he taught at the Indian Art Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For the next 18 years Aripa owned and operated his own art gallery, the Indian Art Shop, on the Coeur d’Alene reservation.
During those years, he would set-up a booth at local powwows, and do charcoal portraits of people. Aripa also designed the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Seal and one side of the Idaho State Centennial coin. Aripa served on the Coeur d'Alene Tribal Council and was active in his Catholic faith, attending the Sacred Heart Mission at DeSmet.