by Alison Wong
From “Learning Lore”, September 23, 2018
Storytelling is central to Indigenous culture. Their teachings and beliefs are passed down from generation to generation, voices upon voices. And today, that was the goal of “Learning Lore”, to share the beliefs of the Cree and Gitxsan with people of all races. There were Asians, Caucasians, and people of African descent all in a room together, all wanting to learn about a different way of thinking. It was wonderful to see all that diversity come together in one room to hear stories.
Wilfred Buck began by telling us about his study of the stars. Growing up and going to school, he was given the impression that only the ancient Romans and Greeks looked at the sky. But, he soon learned, everyone did. Everybody else looks up at the sky and the stars, but only the Romans and Greeks get to tell their stories. While attending ceremonies in his community, Buck discovered that many of their Cree songs and stories were set in the night sky. But those songs and stories he heard were only a fraction of those that used to be told in the days before colonialism. Once the subsequent suppression of traditional storytelling and ceremonies began, many of those stories were unfortunately forgotten. So Buck set out to re-learn the forgotten traditional Cree teachings of the stars to share them with the country once more. He pieced together the old stories by attending ceremonies, through fasting and dreaming, through the rituals of the Sundance and sweat-lodge. He created a star map with the constellations of the Cree, and shared his knowledge of the stars and our connection to them with us today.
Brett D. Huson shared his first book, “The Sockeye Mother”. It is the first in an upcoming series he plans to write, and will be followed by “The Grizzly Mother”. See the trend? Huson was brought up by his mother and grandmother, the women in his life who taught him how to be a good person. The men might have taught him the ways of the land, but it is the women that taught him how to be a good person. He reminded us that the Indigenous cultures were traditionally matriarchal, and that many of the ideas that society is coming to see now, from women in leadership to ideas in science, had been known to the Indigenous peoples for generations. Huson then shared with us the origin story of how humans came to be on Earth, introduced from a hole in the sky by Sky Woman. The Gitxsan came to Earth this way from another world to share their culture with this world. Huson taught us that the world’s existence is based on the energies surrounding everybody, and that we need to focus on the positive energy. We have to draw in that positive energy from our surroundings so that we can be better people for it.
The storytelling concluded with a general feeling of spiritual connectedness and reverence for the earth, the sky, and the land we share as humans. A reminder to respect the land, and look to the stars.