SASKATOON — February marks the 20th anniversary of Aboriginal Storytelling Month, where Indigenous culture and knowledge are told through traditional stories.
The celebration starts on Wednesday, Feb. 1, next week in LaRonge, highlighting all accomplishments the event has achieved since it began in 2004.
Teacher and Indigenous storyteller Jasmyn Albert said she was inspired to carry the legacy she learned from her kokum (Cree for grandmother), who shared the stories.
“Our cultural ceremony, history and language are all talked about in traditional stories. As long as we continue to share them, they are still alive,” said Albert.
She remembers the stories shared by her grandmother and soaked it all in. Those stories made her decide to become a teacher and share it with the younger generation.
“I was taught that as long as we share our stories, they stay alive. When I am in front of Indigenous students, I can feel the connection they are making. It lights up the spirit,” she added.
These stories, knowledge and lived experiences are often shared through oral tradition and during wintertime, which is sacred to Indigenous communities.
She added that the annual event has also given a chance to build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
“It’s a chance to share the beauty of our stories with non-Indigenous people as well. It is breaking the stereotypes and cultural biases that many have is important. I get to enlighten people and share a piece of who I am,” said Albert.
Indigenous artist and teacher Curtis Peeteetuce has been part of the project for 16 years, where he shared different stories with communities across the province.
The playwright said telling Indigenous stories and traditions had given him confidence as a performer and strengthened his identity as an Indigenous person.
“It’s a connection to our past as individuals. It tells us about who we are and where we come from. It gives us meaning and strength to us. When you hear stories of hardship and you are going through your struggles, these stories of victory, success, love and power can inspire and give us all hope,” said Peeteetuce
The Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples started the project to create an avenue where Indigenous Peoples can celebrate and tell their stories and traditions.
The project has helped share and protect Indigenous culture and knowledge in the province's schools, libraries and cultural organizations.
Organizer Jessica Generoux still remembers how the project started with only 200 people attending and only held for a week.
“[Now] the month of February is proclaimed by the government as Aboriginal Storytelling Month and we fill it with events reaching across the province and nearly 30,000 people attending,” said Generoux.
The COVID-19 pandemic had organizers holding all events online, but this year will be mixed—online and in-person—with 65 storytellers sharing children’s stories, traditional teachings, poetry, music and ceremony. This year will also have personal stories shared by podcasters, video game creators, playwrights, artists and comedians, with most libraries in the province participating.
For more information, visit the LSSAP website at lssap.ca.