February 2019 has been proclaimed by the Government of Saskatchewan as Aboriginal Storytelling Month.
The Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples Inc. (LSSAP) officially launched Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month 2019 right here in Moose Jaw at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Campus. Events will take place all month at all Polytechnic campuses and different institutions across the province.
For 15 years, libraries, schools and organizations across Saskatchewan have been hosting Aboriginal Storytelling events throughout the month of February. The winter timing for Aboriginal Storytelling observes the First Nations traditional time for storytelling.
The project involves schools, libraries, local agencies, universities, colleges and Aboriginal-based organizations. Almost all of the storytelling events /sessions are organized by librarians, through the public library system and are available to the public for free.
Moose Jaw Sask. Polytechnic campus hosted the launch of Aboriginal Storytelling Month at its Macoun Lounge on Monday, February 4. The event saw attendance from several dignitaries in the community and received great support from students on campus. At the launch, a traditional meal was provided while guest storytellers shared their stories and some of their traditions with the audience.
This is the fifth year that Saskatchewan Polytechnic has hosted events for Aboriginal Storytelling Month. Jason Seright, director of Indigenous strategy at Sask. Polytechnic says February is an important month for the institution.
“This is an important event for us here at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. Whenever we can open our minds and hearts and experience another culture, more learning and knowledge, I think it really does make us a better people. It is the fifth year that Sask. Polytechnic has been doing the Aboriginal Storytelling Month and I’m very happy to kick it off here. We’ll be having events at all our campuses.”
Seright thanked the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples for ‘championing this month’ with their continued push and support for the past 15 years.
“I want to acknowledge our Library Services who are championing this month and showing the way on how to indigenize our institution. We appreciate all the support we’ve been getting from the Library LSSAP.
And Jason Chamakese, flute player and storyteller, who was invited to be part of the launch, talked about the importance of storytelling in bridging gaps and forming understanding.
“I was one of the featured storytellers that was asked to be here to kick off Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month and I’m honored to be here. I really think that events like this can only yield positive results because it helps foster a sense of understanding and mutual respect, which we really need in this current social climate.”
While sharing his stories, which were mainly personal, Chamakese played the flute, which he says adds a great element to the effectiveness of bringing the stories across to his audience.
“What really helps to bring these stories across is the music. The music goes hand in hand with the stories that I share. It really adds an element that young people can connect with. It makes it far more entertaining as well.”
Chamakese added, “One of the things that I’d like people to walk away with from hearing my story is the importance of learning each other's stories before you make assumptions and judgements. Doing this, people can get an understanding of where people came from and why things are the way they are. It is important to learn about each other so we can foster understanding. When we learn about people who come from diverse backgrounds, we not only improve ourselves but our society as well.”
He also noted the importance of keeping storytelling traditions alive.
“It is important to keep storytelling alive in all our traditions — songs, language and ceremonies and everything else. There have been numerous attempts to erase that, but I think the traditions will be around for a long time and we have a role in keeping them alive. It is my hope that several generations down, it will keep going, especially in our language.”
The Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples committee is made up of volunteers committed to studying and improving library services to Indigenous residents of Saskatchewan, both on and off reserve. As well, the LSSAP Committee is responsible for the annual Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Project which has been taking place every February since 2004.