Finding lessons in traditional Aboriginal stories
Solomon Ratt is doing his part to continue to tradition of First Nations storytelling.
© File photo
First Nations University of Canada associate professor of Indigenous Languages, Linguistics and Literature Solomon Ratt will be reciting traditional Cree stories at John M. Cuelenaere Public Library on Feb. 1 as part of Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month.
“It’s so important to tell our stories again to our children and grandchildren and to share them with parents,” said Ratt, First Nations University of Canada associate professor of Indigenous Languages, Linguistics and Literature.
“Because our traditional stories contained lessons about life that were passed down from generation to generation in the language, in my case it’s Cree, and people just aren’t passing those stories down anymore. Not in the original language, anyway.”
February is Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Month, a campaign organized by the Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples aimed at promoting First Nations and Metis storytelling. Events are planned at schools and libraries across the province, but the official launch is taking place at John M. Cuelenaere Public Library on Feb. 1.
“In traditional society we told these stories from the time the first snow fell and it continued on to the spring, so there were lots of stories that were told during that time,” Ratt said.
“The sun sets pretty early in the wintertime. It gets dark pretty soon … but children still have energy so they’d have storytelling occupy their time until it was bedtime.”
Ratt will be attending the launch and will be on hand to recite traditional stories from his childhood, as well as tales from ethnographical collections he’s been studying over the past few years. He said his main goal is to reach out to young people.
“The children would benefit from these stories, but I’d also like to reach the parents of the children because in traditional society the responsibility of passing on these stories rested on the parents,” he said. “It was the parents’ duty to tell these stories to the children because the stories were the basic education for the children as they were growing up.”
Ratt said he hopes his audience comes away with an appreciation for traditional Aboriginal societies and the lessons found in their stories.
He said parts of the stories and their messages can be lost when translated into English. In order to stay as true to the original material, Ratt said he “interprets” the stories, rather than settling on a literal translation. He hopes to eventually see a revival of the old stories and he suggested that the school system has a part to play.
“The only way that students get to hear these traditional stories if they have a storyteller coming to tell stories,” he said.
“I hope to see a day when these stories are part of the school curriculum. That would be wonderful.”
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