John and Carol Barrett, Mary Lou Stillday, Susan Johnson and Tribal Treasurer Annette Johnson make up the first row
Published February 16, 2018
“Having no agenda awakes your innate knowledge. Tap into each other. Innate or indigenous knowledge will lead to balance and harmony. We are doing as our ancestors did. The people were asked, and then all came together and pooled their wisdom.” -Gichi-Ma’iingan (Big Wolf) ROAD TO PONEMAH: The Teachings of Larry Stillday
RED LAKE INDIAN RESERVATION – The regularly scheduled Elders Ojibwemowin Advisory Committee meeting for the month of February, tried something different for their February 12, 2018, meeting. Instead of the usual meeting, there was a storytelling at the Culture Room at the high school. The group’s meetings are held monthly on the second Monday from 3:30 to 6:00 pm.
The group was asked by Elizabeth Strong of Children and Family Services to hold the storytelling session as part of a new group known as Native STAND (Students Together Against Negative Decisions), a youth group focused on empowering Native youth to become peer educators and advocates for making healthy decisions.
As a result, nearly 50 people of all ages came together to share knowledge, good memories and laughs. “It’s definitely always a blessing to get elders and children together,” noted Nate Taylor of the Ojibwemowin Immersion School.
Elders and others shared personal stories rather than teachings or cultural and spiritual stories in respect for the recent passing of several Red Lake Elders.
Elizabeth “Pug” Kingbird told about her pet deer when she was a child and even had photos. She does not eat deer meat because of it; Frances Miller spoke about her father making her bunny socks as a child. Nate Taylor told a story of Migizi looking for a mate, and two eagles who lived with chickens and connected the stories to how he discovered his Red Lake roots while living in Kansas.
Susan Ninham, Carol Barrett, and Devery Fairbanks also offered short stories all with a message and a smile. Harvey Jordan told a story in Ojibwemowin.
Storytelling plays an integral role to Indigenous cultures around the world to maintain, regain and pass on tradition, culture, language and history. The stories and legends that are shared among Indigenous Peoples add faith to cultural belief structures and often are the main teaching methods of community survival. Stories shared within a community will teach individuals how to be an integral part of their community, how to live within their spiritual beliefs and in many cases how to survive in the local environment. Because of the traditional purpose of storytelling, legends and stories also play a central role in the decolonization efforts among Indigenous Nations worldwide.
Young people listen to a story by Carol Barrett
At about the middle of the meeting, a wonderful lunch was served that included chicken wild rice soup, luncheon meets, tomato, pickles, lettuce, chips, cole slaw, and cookies. Medicine bundles were gifted to the speakers. Strong invites all to join the group again for storytelling next month on Monday, March 12, from 3:30 to 6 pm again at the High School Culture Room.
“As we learn of these things, people will wake up. We will hear something and we say, ‘it seems like I knew that,’ that ‘aha!’ moment. It is something deep inside of us all. When a person realizes that, ‘I don’t know…what I don’t know,’ then we can begin! We realize then that, ‘now I know…that I don’t know’. That’s when you become teachable. We are saying in effect, ‘I’m open to the message’. Our grandpa and grandma lived like that.” -Gichi-Ma’iingan (Big Wolf) ROAD TO PONEMAH: The Teachings of Larry Stillday