SASKATOON – Some of life’s most fundamental lessons can be taught through the practice of storytelling, according to an aboriginal hoop dancer who was before a group of Saskatoon elementary school students Thursday afternoon.
“When we’re dancing, we’re giving off that good vibe to these young kids and you’re teaching them something so sacred,” said Terrance Littletent, a world champion hoop dancer based in Regina.
Sask. theatre company changes name to honour Gordon Tootoosis legacy
Cancer researchers explore healing power of digital storytelling
Littletent danced for a group of students at Saskatoon’s White Buffalo Youth Lodge Thursday during an event highlighting Saskatchewan aboriginal storytelling month. He told the group he hoped to teach them lessons about love, attentiveness, learning, respect and an ability to watch what goes on around them.
“My basic storytelling is about that, the morals behind the five basic teachings,” said Littletent, minutes before he walked before the group of students.
“If they can even learn one of those, each day, you know, then I accomplished myself as a teacher and a mentor,” he added.
Dancing is one form of aboriginal storytelling, according to Littletent. He said he has hoop danced for more than 20 years and started when he was eight-years-old after being taught by his uncle.
“Often times [storytellers] are people who are identified at a young age, that they had the gift of storytelling,” said Tasha Hubbard, a University of Saskatchewan English professor who teaches a course on storytelling.
“Traditional indigenous stories hold the laws, hold guidelines, hold the knowledge of the community,” she added.
The practice is as important now as ever, according to Hubbard, who added that in-person stories can connect to people on a unique level, when compared to recorded accounts.
“When a storyteller tells a story, they’re entering into a relationship with the people who are listening and it’s not just one way,” said Hubbard.
READ MORE: Aboriginal storytelling tradition lives on in Saskatchewan
Storytelling can inspire as well. Vancouver-based filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers said she “grew up listening to stories from [her] grandparents,” that now directly influence her work. However, she hesitated to label film as storytelling in a strict sense or call herself a storyteller.
“The thing about being a storyteller and telling stories is that it takes a certain skill, it’s not something that just anybody can do,” said Tailfeathers.
“Storytelling, it’s a rich oral tradition that’s been in existence since time immemorial and it still has a very valuable place in the way that we disseminate knowledge.”