YORKTON – February 1st marked the start of Sask. Aboriginal Storytelling Month.
The SASM project is hosted by the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples committee and promotes First Nations, Metis & Inuit oral storytelling traditions in Sask.
For Myron Bob, a teacher from the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, it's isn't storytelling month, it's storytelling MONTHS.
Bob is a teacher at Kahkewistahaw Community School, a First Nations school located on the Kahkewistahaw 72 reserve. He uses a curriculum that incorporates Indigenous ways of knowing, land-based learning and treaty education.
“I was born and raised here in Kahkewistahaw,” Bob told Yorkton This Week, adding, “I grew up with my grandmother and my grandfather until I moved out when I was 18.”
Bob said at the age of six he was sent to a residential school.
“I failed grade one and I failed grade five because of traumatic experiences that went on in the residential school,” said Bob.
After moving away at 18, Bob said he lived in Saskatoon, Northern Quebec and Northern Alta where he worked at various jobs.
“In '09 I moved back to Saskatoon and I got my Education Assistant Certificate to work in the schools with students,” said Bob, noting “I’ve always been placed with the behavioural boys throughout that time.”
“When I was 48-years-old the Indian Teaching Education Program through the U of S came through Kahkewistahaw — they brought that program — the ITEP program,” told Bob, “I finished it — I’m a teacher now — so I use a lot of First Nation ways of knowing to teach my classes.”
Bob said he has a background in land-based learning, which is education that takes place outdoors in places of local significance, often on traditional Indigenous territories. He said he uses land-based activities to teach his students.
“My way of teaching has always been utilizing our stories and our ways that I have been handed down,” he said, “sometimes I bring in other people when I’m not feeling comfortable enough to teach it.”
Bob said he also educates his students on treaties.
“Those are facts that I know of and that I’ve learned through classes that I’ve taken,” said Bob.
“There are stories that I like to tell through experience ... I like engaging and reading stories about our old ways and how they used to do things," said Bob of his teaching practices.
“I utilize it in land-based and I bring it forth and when I’m doing things with students I explain where I got this from,” said Bob, adding, “when I’m engaging in stories I make sure to give that background so that they know where it came from, why I’m doing it and where I want it to go.”
Bob said he is happy that February is recognized as Indigenous Storytelling Month in Canada.
“The importance of storytelling month is to pass on that education,” he said, “what we regard as First Nations people through stories is the importance of listening — because we didn’t have the paper to write things down and to memorize it — we had our stories and our stories were always told in the winter months.”
He said it makes sense to tell stories in the winter when people spend more time indoors rather than out in the cold.
Bob said he feels that storytelling month is especially relevant for him as a First Nations teacher because he incorporates stories into his land-based and cultural activities with his class.
“For me — as a First Nation man and as a teacher — storytelling MONTHS is more appropriate,” said Bob, “I love the idea of acknowledging it.”
Bob said he wants to acknowledge the importance of stories from a First Nation’s point of view, because stories were the main way of transmitting knowledge and values in the past.
"Listening was a very important skill back in the day because we didn’t have the paper,” he said, “it wasn’t only about storytelling it was about using those other skills and senses within all of us.”
“All stories have a meaning,” said Bob, “they teach us something, they make us laugh, they make us cry, they make us think.”
Bob said he tells his stories in English, because he lost his Indigenous language due to the residential school system. He said he learned from an elder that the southern First Nations were the first to lose their language and culture when the settlers came and built the railway.
“Unfortunately because I went to the residential school I lost my language," said Bob.
“When it comes to some of the words that are in the stories I go to the Cree teacher and I ask him how to say it because I don’t want to get it wrong," said Bob, noting that as a teacher, he wants to know what he is talking about and that the proper pronunciation of the words are important to him.
“As a teacher you want to know what you’re talking about,” he said, “so I make sure that I get it right.”
Though Bob isn't scheduled to speak in Yorkton for SASM, he spoke highly of his colleagues who are set to share their stories.
“I know some of the people and they bring a lot of knowledge — really good knowledge — to the First Nation’s community,” he said. “With it being reconciliation — and how that’s really a big thing right now — they bring that to all the communities right across the board.”
As per the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples website, The goals of SAS Month are:
- To support and promote First Nations, Metis & Inuit oral storytelling traditions in Saskatchewan.
- To celebrate First Nations, Metis & Inuit history, language & culture.
- To promote cross-cultural relationships and understanding by promoting storytelling as an important foundational cultural activity. To facilitate and grow a living oral storytelling collection.
- To share the vision of the LSSAP Committee: Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples collaborates through partnerships to enrich communities by promoting and improving library services for Aboriginal peoples.
For more information, visit their website.