Indigenous Storytelling Month hits a milestone
- By Andrea Bellerose | February 17, 2023
It is the 20th anniversary of Indigenous Storytelling Month in Saskatchewan.
Although storytelling and oral history has been passed on for generations, this formal recognition was created in 2004 by the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples (LSSAP).
It started as an event with a couple hundred participants but has grown exponentially over the years, with events all across the province attracting up to 30,000 participants.
Jessica Generoux, a librarian from Treaty 6 Sturgeon Lake First Nation, is one of this year’s organizers.
The Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Project (SAS) includes several different library systems.
“(Seven) public and regional libraries in Saskatchewan work with their local Indigenous communities to provide their storytelling programs,” said Generoux. “Local storytellers use those library systems to share stories and to share the knowledge contained within the story.”
In December 2022, the provincial government declared that February is the official month of Indigenous storytelling.
“Culturally when the snow has hit the ground, it has been a very old custom to gather together and share stories to learn culture and language and teachings. Wintertime is very important,” said Generoux.
Despite the growth of the event over the years, she says the vision has remained the same.
“I think that we are focused on quality partnerships and programming and, for the past 20 years, the SAS project has always been at the grassroots level,” said Generoux. “Big hitters like the University of Regina and Southeast Regional Library System have been involved, but the project and the program has always focused on the grassroots level. It is designed that way so anyone can get involved and the cultural protocol of storytelling is respected and the nations they come from are recognized.”
Over the years some events do attract larger crowds.
Several community feasts were held at various locations on Feb. 4 to help kick off this year’s event.
One of the SAS highlights is a storytelling session with Dene author Tenille Campbell set to take place at the Moose Jaw Public Library on Feb. 25.
Generoux has noticed that more and more young people are starting to get involved with storytelling.
“The cultural revitalization process going on through storytelling and seeing younger storytellers emerge sharing traditional stories speaks to the intergenerational impact of storytelling,” she said. “Younger people are stepping up to the plate to become storytellers to take care of story bundles, bundles of teaching, that have been passed down in families and communities. The cultural leadership of youth is on display.”
Generoux said SAS has evolved into something important to the people of the province.
Storytelling can be healing, especially in this time of what is going on in ground searches at various residential schools.
“This project has been instrumental in implementing or responding to the TRC Calls to Action,” said Generoux. “The importance of storytelling in cultural revitalization and healing is helping as we move forward.”
Visit www.lssap.ca/storytelling for more information and the full calendar of events.