Traditions retain the history of many Saddle Lake Cree Nation residents who continue to pass cultural information from one generation to the next, especially through storytelling over the winter months.
Last week, Kihew Asiniy Education Centre students in Saddle Lake learned and followed a tradition practiced by their ancestors. Storytellers were invited for most of the week to share and teach the students about the history of their lands.
“A long time ago, our ancestors used to tell stories to their children during the winter,” Martha Half, a land based instructor at the school said. “Now, because the western world has disrupted that, we are trying to maintain the tradition and have elders and people in our community come in and tell stories about our legends, and why certain things are the way they are.”
Students also learned about the culture’s seven teachings, and gathered around the elders’ room where the storyteller’s spoke to students during the week, Half said.
For Krimson Cardinal, a Grade 11 student at the school, the week was important because she got to learn about her people and their teachings.
“And it brings us closer together,” added Shalayna McGilvery, another student. “It makes us stronger to know our roots and it helps us create peace within ourselves.”
The winter months were a time to gather and tell stories, explained Florence Quinn, the school’s Cree language instructor. It was the practical choice, considering the fact people were busy hunting, growing and harvesting during the warmer seasons, Quinn said.
For many indigenous communities, creation stories, historical accounts, including traditional ecological knowledge, teachings, language, and cultural stories are kept alive through oral storytelling traditions, which have been passed on for thousands of years.
Storytelling week was wrapped up on Friday with entertainment from magician Jeremy “Coyote” Stevens.
The school’s Native Cultural Committee, where Half and Quinn are also members, organized the week’s events.