A few years ago I wrote a post on native oral tradition and its implications for speech therapy. To date I still get blog hits and emails about that post and although it is late coming here is a bit more on the subject.
Oral tradition and stories are an integral part of Native culture.They are the means by which the culture teaches younger members, records history, explains questions, expresses spirituality and fosters pleasure and pride in the participants. Native oral traditions and stories have been the cornerstone to the survival of the culture and are traditionally valued above the written word.
Native oral traditions are difficult to write about because it is taboo in traditional First Nation culture to write down oral traditions. Research and academic writings involving First Nations people is dominated by non-Natives. This is significant because research done by non-Natives has the potential for misinterpretation on matters of cultural significance.
It is an elder’s responsibility to teach legends, stories and the traditional ways of their people. When a story is being told the listener is not allowed to make noise, talk, or walk around. Elders and storytellers utilize a low gentle tone to inspire a “dream like” quality to the stories. It is thought that presenting the stories in this manner to children insures that they will never forget them.
Oral traditions are an essential component to the survival of all native cultures. They include elements of kinship responsibility, identity, a sense of belonging and responsibility. Passing on oral traditions is a responsibility. There is an understanding among native peoples that they will give back by passing these stories on thus keeping the stories and culture alive.
Native culture has four main types of stories that are told via oral tradition. Since there are more than 500 tribes in the United States alone, for simplicity the Plains Cree definitions of these stories will be used here. (Chosen because I am Cree and understand this specific tribe best.) Plains Cree is the language of the native peoples of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada. There are several dialects of Cree, but all are mutually understandable to native speakers. The dialects of Cree are Swampy Cree, Plains Cree, Moose Cree, Wood Cree and Atihkamek Cree. Plains Cree is known to linguists as the “Y” dialect, but Crees call it the Prairie Language or Paskwawinimowin. The four types of Cree oral tradition stories are:
1. Acimowin – a regular simple story that captures and retells the common events of everyday life.
2. Atayohkewin – often called legends or myths by nonnatives, often are the oldest stories in oral traditions.
3. Mamahtawacimowin – translates directly as “it is a miracle to tell a story.” These stories retell strange and unbelievable experiences that some would call miracles.
4. Pawamewacimowin – these stories tell of a spiritual journey that generally involves special powers and the natural gifts of nature.
All people tell stories, we all have tales that have been passed down through our families. I remember fondly the stories my Kohkom and Moosom shared with me. I’ve already started to share them with my children. Maybe you would like to share a story with me…I promise to listen and remember.
Cielo and Jr have been taking swimming lessons this week. (Every day, twice a day for 2 weeks. I need a vacation from my vacation.)
I never took swimming lessons, when people ask my general response is, “Ndns don’t swim…we like water but don’t swim. We frolic.” As a child and up til now I can count on my fingers the number of bathing suits I’ve owned. (Swim in cutoff shorts and a T? Don’t mind if I do.) Anyway, I want them to learn to swim so there I am hauling 3 kids, one of whom will NOT touch the sand tho I won’t name names (Diego.) We are the only native family taking lessons there. Maybe ever.
I feel like I’m taking lessons too because if I am not in the water my girl does not participate. She totally calls shenanigans on “swimming” as she would rather frolic. She is so my child.
I am reminded of being a kid and beginning school in town. Before at the rez school I never thought I had less (meaning material things) than others, until I saw other kids with more. It didn’t bother me, but it did embarrass me tho I tried to hide it. I thought those feelings went away but I’ve realized they have not.
It literally hurt my heart when I realized my kids were the only ones in their swimming class not wearing wet suits (the lake is cold yo.) It is not a requirement but I didn’t want them to feel different so I bought them each one. (Scored a sale, plus used $25 worth of Canadian Tire money cuz I’m thrifty like that.) When I showed the kids their response made me both sad and glad. They both said, “oh! It’s just like_____’s! Now I won’t be cold.”
I guess they noticed. Funny thing is, when I was a child I felt totally fancy if I had a “real” bathing suit. I still feel that way if you want me to be honest.
Now if I could just sit on the beach and read everything would be perfect.
We have been without power for over 25 hours now thanks to the storm. Earlier today my babies were getting antsy so I decided to take them to the rez to visit my parents. While there my parents decided to make me coffee (because they are awesome) over the fire. As I walked towards the fire pit I overheard this conversation…
“Geez you got a little ass” (ok I don’t know why I didn’t turn around but I thought I was mistaken)
“This is my mothers ass” (um, awkward)
“Eee as if, that’s my little ass!” (now I had to interrupt and was all….”wth??”)
And my mom said, “look, Dad is chopping wood with that little axe. ”
Thank goodness they were talking about axe
Today is Aboriginal Day in Canada and it is making me think of Pow Wow. If I have my way my boys will be Chicken Dancers. (This video offers a brief explanation of the style and example of the dancing.)
I hope Cielo will dance Fancy Shawl. This video is an example of young girls dancing fancy shawl.
I am also really loving how this music video showcases hoop dancers and a fancy shawl dancer.
I wish I knew the names of these youths. The hoop dancers are champion Tony Duncan and his brother Kevin. I still don’t know who the fancy dancer is. The fancy shawl dancer is Violet Duncan, Miss Indian World 2007 (wife of Tony.) Much respect out to Nelly Furtado for featuring these talented individuals.
By the way, does anyone remember at the Juno’s in 2004 when Nelly sang with Whitefish Jrs?
It is officially Treaty Day on Thunderchild First Nation.
I am proud of being a band member of TCFN and I’m looking forward to bringing my children to partake in the days festivities. I scheduled myself to be off work and I am taking the kids out of school at 10 am so we can head to the rez. I’m excited as always to visit everyone in the community and celebrate that All Saskatchewan people are Treaty People . Today is a day to remember our relationship with the Crown, the government and to celebrate our rights. I made a treaty day post a few years ago here if you are interested in reading about the history of TREATY 6.