Stories and Storytelling

July 02, 2019

Why stories and storytelling? As Indigenous people, we are an oral society so we use language as our foundation of teaching and learning. Telling stories, sharing songs, ceremony and protocols were the basis of sharing ones’ knowledge. One cannot learn without hearing these stories over and over again, in different settings and in different ways, by different people in ones’ life. Teachings in stories, songs, ceremony, etc. can be garnered from them in unique ways each time it was shared or reinforced in a specific setting.

Also, not every story was an actual story, in the modern way that we know stories; with a beginning, middle and end. The same with a song, each can be used for different occasions, purposes, and sometimes only shared by specific families or within certain spaces. Our dances and protocols within ceremony are used to tell stories, teachings and learnings for the families witnessing the work being done. The purpose of storytelling in multiuse, with many layers and sometimes great complexities or simple truths. Hearing them over and over again is how we master them and them share them our selves.

Origin stories carry knowledge from our ancestors into the present day. In the stories told by different Aboriginal peoples across BC, Wild Woman of the Woods, Sinklip, or Raven create the world, or change it into the world known to human beings. Over the centuries, we have told these stories, sung them, carved them, painted them, and brought them to life through objects and dance. Today, origin stories are told in homes, schools and cultural centres. Artists, writers and actors interpret them for Aboriginal communities and the world.
-An Aboriginal Presence, Canadian Mueum of History 

Our stories are also innately embedded within spirituality, the supernatural and in holistic ways, not generally found in modern society. They are not compartmentalized into categories, other than origin and non-origin stories, in most Nations.

Our stories describe transformations of our world; they tell how Raven stole the light from a house near the Pacific Coast and spilled it over the earth. They recount Kiviuk's journeys along the Arctic shore, and Jipijkam's sudden appearances on the East Coast. Sinklip or Coyote plays a major role on all stories of the Okanagan People and how many animals, beings and transformers like Coyote, provided our teachings through these stories. Through the centuries, these stories have preserved the teachings of how each society defined the nature of the world. Stories described the characters of animals and human beings, and showed the relationship between them that has sustained human life. There is so much wealth in each story, song sharing, dance, etc…

Our stories were us, what we knew, where we came from and where we were going. They were told to remind us of our responsibility, to instruct, and to entertain. There were stories of the Creation, our travels, our laws. There were legends of hard-fought battles, funny anecdotes - some from the smokehouse, some from the trickster - and there were scary stories to remind us of danger, spiritual and otherwise. Stories were our life and they still are.
-Larry Hill, Seneca

Stories are not innately solutions oriented but provide space to ponder, be curious, ask questions, glean more information, etc. to move towards a solution(s). Hence, my stories may not always be stories, but sharing, but always with a meaning, sometimes with the same under tones, and with the intent of the above.

I’m not here to provide you with all of the solutions, but maybe with some of the foundations on which they could be built. My stories and sharing are for manifesting space to dig deeper into how you see your role in your story of Economic Reconciliation. To be curious about your story, vision, space, foundation, path you want in your work and the influences and ripples it will have on the whole.

Many of our solutions are already imbedded in our origin and non-origin stories, songs, legends, myths, ceremonial protocols, land teachings, etc. Our culture is the foundation on which everything can be built. One great example, is in the sample story I will share about the Okanagan People in the Interior of B.C. They have derived so much of their continued work on this knowledge, which is imbedded in governance, planning, frameworks, strategies, policy, sustainability, etc.

Remembering at every turn, the solution(s) will forever change as we change and that the journey has to provide for balance in the well-being of our Communities and Nations.