Stories celebrate Aboriginal culture

REGINA — Aboriginal performer Kevin Wesaquate shared his experience recently, taking his Regina audience on a walk down Saskatoon’s 20th Street and through his childhood as a “little Indian kid.”

“I remember as a kid my nimosom (grandfather in Cree) telling me never to speak aboriginal if I wanted to survive,” said Wesaquate, a founder of Saskatoon’s Indigenous Poets Society.

“I hope what I do strikes a chord or changes an opinion and, in the end, helps create more awareness and more social justice.”

Wesaquate’s performance was designed to shine a light on racism and challenges he had experienced as an aboriginal.

Regina poet and Campion College professor Randy Lundy also took to the stage to read from his two poetry books: Under the Night Sun and The Gift of the Hawk.

Lundy said that without the spoken word, an integral part of being an aboriginal person is missing.

“If we don’t get together and shine a light on our stories, it leads down all kinds of dark paths and we forget about why we’re here and where we came from,” said Lundy.

The Library Services for Saskatchewan First Nations took up the challenge of honouring oral traditions, launching the first Aboriginal Storytelling Project in 2004.

The Minister’s Advisory Committee on Library Services for Aboriginal People was established in 2001 to address two areas of concern regarding public library service .

First, only a small proportion of First Nations’ communities in southern Saskatchewan chose to join the public library system, creating barriers to providing library service for residents of non-participating communities.

In addition, public libraries were not attracting off-reserve First Nations and Metis people in numbers reflecting their proportion of the population.

Since 2004, Aboriginal Storytelling Month has been held annually to bring First Nations and Metis people into public libraries.

Wendy Sinclair, one of the founders of the Aboriginal Storytelling Project, said more than 18,000 people participated in 394 aboriginal storytelling sessions.

“When we bring in a storyteller into a school or library, we’re creating a welcoming environment and bringing in non-library users into a community where they might have felt they may not have belonged before,” she said.

Events included puppet shows, performances and storytelling seminars in schools, libraries and communities.

Rae Pelletier, Aboriginal Storytelling co-ordinator, said this year’s events were successful because they celebrate the central importance of the spoken word in aboriginal culture.

“It’s a traditional way of passing on knowledge that has been followed for centuries,” said Pelletier .

The minister’s advisory committee included representatives from libraries and First Nations and Metis institutions. It identified ways to promote First Nations and Metis participation and commitment in developing and maintaining library services for First Nations and Metis.

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