Bringing Aboriginal culture to the masses

Jodi Schellenberg
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Aboriginal people from across Saskatchewan are sharing their culture this week.

Robert Gladue of Waterhen Lake First Nation and Jason Chamakese of Pelican Lake First Nation were in Prince Albert on Thursday afternoon to teach students about their culture during Aboriginal Storytelling Month.

“We are going to be doing some storytelling and we are going to be infusing some old songs and some contemporary round dance songs and a bit of flute as well as trying to pass a good message down to these young children,” Gladue said.

Gladue started the presentation by playing a round dance song and the drum and singing for the students gathered at the library.

“Mine is mostly on the musical side,” he laughed. “As for storytelling, that is more of Jay’s thing. I’m here to provide the entertainment and kind of back him up. I’m here for the looks.”

Although Gladue downplayed his role in the presentation, Chamakese said they both are important to teach children about First Nations culture.

“He does play a very vital role in what we do in what he sings,” Chamakese said. “We’re able to pass on really good messages in the songs we perform. He sings a couple songs that carry these messages.”

Chamakese is a Native American flute player, who has been playing for almost 17 years.

“I do what I can to promote mutual respect and understanding,” he said. “The music that we use is just a powerful vehicle that helps us pass that message on and that is ultimately what we are here for.”

Both believe having an Aboriginal Storytelling Month in the libraries across the province is important.

“It is important because it is put on by the library systems and they are inviting resource people from all over the province to come in and share in school and libraries and different venues throughout the province,” Chamakese said. “I think anytime where you have an opportunity to bring in people and to share and take steps forward to what I was talking about -- that mutual respect and understanding -- and it all begins with learning about one another.

“That’s essential and that’s key is that we are taking these opportunities to teach and we are also taking these opportunities to learn.”

As a First Nations person, Chamakese said they don’t have a storytelling month because “it is just a way of life, it is who we are.”

“We don’t really compartmentalize into one month,” he said. “It is an ongoing thing and it is a lifelong thing. To have something like this is always a step in the right direction.”

Being invited to share their culture with students in Prince Albert is one way to open the doors of communication, the men said.

“I think the dialogue we are sharing is really important as far as our work goes -- I think especially talking about young First Nations youth,” Gladue said. “It is really important to show them a bit of their background, culture and language and maybe inspire them to pursue or try to learn more about who they are because it gives them a strong culture foundation.”

“If it can inspire young people to wanting to know more about people from other cultures and if it can inspire our own young people towards wanting to learn more of the language, learn more of our traditions, then that is how I see as being successful,” Chamakese said. “We are not here to try to force anybody into anything. We just want to help inspire and empower young people into making good decisions and good choices.”

@superjodes •

Organizations: First Nations

Geographic location: Prince Albert

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