February is Aboriginal Storytelling Month.
Preserving Aboriginal culture, history and passing down traditions is important in our community.
On any given day, you can find Moose Jaw’s Gerry Stonechild doing just that. Whether it’s in our schools, local churches or travelling to other prairie towns, Gerry, an elder, tells stories of Aboriginal culture that holds strong, especially among his youngest story lovers— children.
There are diverse types of stories that are told: Instructional stories which provides guidance on how to get on with life; Entertainment stories that are used as a way of amusement and enjoyment; Moral stories on how to behave or act and spiritual or sacred stories that are not told openly outside of Aboriginal culture.
“Storytelling and oral history goes together which helps to pass on our history, language, culture values, spiritual beliefs, traditions, morals and protocols which are all very important to pass on. It started long ago in the evenings where there were no televisions or radios and we would sit around fires and the elders told stories,” Stonechild says.
Stonechild has been telling stories for many years. He started storytelling when he was in the war and continued afterwards. Here in Moose Jaw, he has been telling stories for over 12 years in schools across the city, churches and other platforms. He shares stories at up to 20 schools each year, along with different church and cultural groups and other schools outside of Moose Jaw — Assiniboia, Gravelbourg and Mortlach, to name a few.
You may see Stonechild at many events or schools this month where he will share his archives of stories at different events scheduled to take place. Aboriginal Storytelling Month kicked off in Moose Jaw at Saskatchewan Polytechnic where several storytellers shared their stories with the students. Activities for the month are coordinated by the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples.