Jesse S.

Storytelling is a term that everybody interprets in his or her own way.  For the most part, it makes me think of the fictional fairytales that my parents read to me when I was a kid.  However, in Indigenous cultures, storytelling is firmly grounded in oral tradition and history.  Indigenous storytelling is a way to instill a knowledge of the mind, body, and soul in connection to the earth through experienced and trusted “knowledge keepers.”  In many Indigenous cultures, storytellers must be trained, apprenticed, and given the right to share knowledge through these stories. (Wheeler, Winona. Personal interview. 15 September 2018.)  The life lessons brought about in Indigenous storytelling are essential for Indigenous peoples to make sense of the world and to teach about values, history, significant events, relationships, cultural beliefs, and sacred stories.  I spoke with two Indigenous professors to try and understand what makes Indigenous storytelling more than fictional entertainment.

This image is a depiction of the Cree Creation Story: Turtle Island. It beautifully illustrates the turtle sacrificing himself for the preservation of all living things. Artist: Aaron Paquette.

In Cree culture, Indigenous stories come in two different forms.  Firstly, the acimoona are stories that teach values, family histories, significant events, relationships, and cultural beliefs.  A series of stories that fulfill many of these lessons is the story of the Elder Brother.  The Elder Brother stories are a gentle and humorous way to teach children harsh lessons about life.  These stories highlight the mistakes and antics that “Elder Brother” has endured throughout his life in a way that lightheartedly teaches children how to behave, and the repercussions that come when they do or do not.  It is important to note that the Elder Brother stories do not teach solely one lesson.  Each child listens as an individual, and each will take something different from the stories in a way that relates to his or her own life. (Wheeler, Winona. Personal interview. 15 September 2018.)

In addition to acimoona, tipachimoona are sacred stories that tell about the world and its creation.  Creation stories are significant in Indigenous culture because they explain how their people came to be while shaping a worldview that Indigenous youth can use to create a sense of identity.  The Aborigine of Australia’s Creation Story is one that highlights the relationship between Indigenous peoples, land, and animals.  This specific story states that the land belonged to the Eaglehawk and the Crow before there were humans on earth.  The creator says that there should be a special land for people, animals, and birds to live in, so he created the earth.  This Aborigine Creation Story emphasizes Indigenous worldview because it teaches that the land must be shared with all living beings.  Indigenous cultures have a strong connection with the land and The Aborigine Creation story teaches a valuable lesson that the world is interconnected and must be shared with all living things.  Further, it teaches that the land should be preserved for the benefit of future generations.  (Morin, Randy. Personal interview. 15 September 2018.)

As can be seen, a common theme in Indigenous storytelling is the importance of land and animal preservation.  Indigenous culture and story hold the belief that the world is interconnected and should be preserved for future generations.  It is important for youth to build a strong connection to the land in the sense that water, land, and animals are all living beings that need each other in order to thrive.  This connection to land and all living things ultimately helps Indigenous youth create humility and respect for everything and everyone around them.

In conclusion, Indigenous storytelling is much more than meets the eye.  The sacred protocols and training that a knowledge keeper must go through to earn the right to keep and translate stories speak to how significant and vital storytelling indeed is to Indigenous culture.  Although the non-didactic manner in which elders and knowledge keepers teach may seem strange to most, the stories hold laws and teachings that are very important for the development of Indigenous youth and the preservation of Indigenous traditions.

Works Cited

Wheeler, Winona. Personal interview. 15 September 2018.

Morin, Randy. Personal interview. 15 September 2018.