Storytellers do more than entertain
- Andréa Ledding | April 04, 2022
A couple storytellers keep traditions alive as a way to reclaim the teachings disrupted by Residential School.
Solomon Ratt, a Regina storyteller, recalled how his mom would tell traditional stories in Cree to not only entertain but to pass down the language and teach important life lessons.
But that all changed when he was taken away to Residential School. “The winter was when these stories were told,” said Ratt. “We were away at school, so the stories stopped,”
Years later, he found the stories in books, but they were missing important parts. Although the written Cree versions were how he remembered them, they were watered down when translated into English.
The censorship of the old stories didn’t stop with just the books. “One time, I told a group of school kids a story about a giant farting skunk, and they loved it,” said Ratt. “But when they told their parents the school got complaints that maybe I shouldn’t tell that story.”
Whether the stories are satirical or serious, the Cree worldview is contained within them, because they teach new generations how to live, raise families, treat one another, respect the lands and so much more, he said.
Stories should always be told out loud in Cree to keep them alive then translated into English for those who don’t understand, which is what he does.
Darwin Atcheynum uses his art and sacred objects when he shares traditional teachings with young people.
“For a long time, because of residential schools, these teachings were something we had to hide but, when I grew up, I got to choose my own path,” he said. “The kids love hearing the stories and are inspired by these teachings.”
Atcheynum said over the generations many people have lost their culture and identity.
“The stories help them find their way back,” he said. “They regain a sense of pride in who they are and where they come from.”
Both storytellers participated in Indigenous Storytelling Month activities hosted by Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples in February.