Circling around for story time

Nathan Liewicki
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An estimated 1,500 Prairie South School Division students and staff from in and around Moose Jaw were at YaraCentre on Thursday for the first Aboriginal Storytelling event.

Aboriginal Storytelling event draws hundreds of Prairie South students

For Aboriginals, storytelling is both a gift and an old custom sanctioned by the people to teach, entertain and remember.

On Thursday, about 1,500 students, teachers and educational assistants from schools in the Prairie South School Division (PSSD) were at YaraCentre for the first Aboriginal Storytelling event.

“I actually had to turn schools away because of fire code regulations,” said Deana Kemple, the First Nations, Metis and Inuit Consultant for PSSD.

Kemple also organized the event – in about three weeks.

After she received an email late one night from the YMCA Aboriginal Youth Council noting there was money that needed to be spent, Kemple went to bed thinking of what she could organize quickly and be very big.

“I had a dream and this is what I thought of,” she said.

Prairie South schools conducts Aboriginal storytelling in classrooms, but that occurs on a small scale. Kemple wanted to reach as many students as possible with this event and the YaraCentre helped make it happen.

“It's important for our Aboriginal students, but it's also important for our non-Aboriginal students so that we can bridge a relationship, and that First Nations and Metis students can feel empowered in their classrooms,” said Kemple. “With education we can help to alleviate racism and we can create a better place for our students to learn.”

February is Aboriginal Storytelling Month in Saskatchewan and what better way to reach numerous young minds than have a huge event.

“We have treaty-essential learning that is part of the Saskatchewan curriculum. Part of that is Aboriginal storytelling,” Kemple noted. “It was a way to get as many classes as possible involved with listening to stories by elders and presenters.”

She was able to gather five presenters to share to share their knowledge of Aboriginal culture with students Thursday. One of them was Jeff Cappo, an Aboriginal mentor and knowledge keeper.

Cappo, who is admittedly passionate about traditional singing and drumming, did both for students.

“Singing has been in my family for years. I've been singing since I was five years old, but before that I was always singing at age three and four,” he said. “My dad was a singer and his dad was a singer and his dad was a singer.”

Cappo believed the event was important as a way to add to the First Nations-oriented education students receive in school.

“It's about getting everybody involved and to know why we do these things and what Mother Earth means to us as First Nations people,” he said. “I'm all about education, whether it be contemporary or traditional education, and that's why I enjoy doing this.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: First Nations, Prairie South School Division, Metis and Inuit Consultant for PSSD YMCA Aboriginal Youth Council

Geographic location: Saskatchewan

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