ART OF INDIGENOUS STORYTELLING , MUSIC, THEATRE, DANCE 

INTRODUCTION

Without a written language, traditional culture and customs were handed down using the Oral Narrative. It provided social, cultural and historical contexts, and acted as a social cohesive for the tribe. In other words, the narratives  constituted the cultural grounding of Indigenous people.

Cultural Guardians were usually Elders or Spirit Doctors who carried the history and knowledge of their people. They were highly revered for the simple reason that it was assumed that with age came wisdom and experience. Children were taught gently about their Nation's traditional knowledge. Hearing the words from an Elder who told it with solemnity and dignity added weight to the importance of tribal knowledge.

In other words, the Oral Narrative was a highly developed,
sophisticated medium supported by ages old teachings and explanations that were based on fact, observation, oral claims and contracts (in front of witnesses), and a complex set of social and cultural customs for dealing with both the sacred and the supernatural. There was no distinction between these two words because everything was viewed as a vast continuum. Both words exited in "real time" and in a conscious state of existence. Every living being was a member of one large family: the four elements (earth, air, fire water), plants, animals, and human worlds co-existed in perfect harmony with all other living beings, and all were considered human (i.e. Standing People (trees), Stone People, etc.)

Much later, after European contact, science and technology would explain a lot of the workings of Mother Earth, why the tides came in twice a day, why the world was both light and dark, the origins of the star nation, etc.  In the time of the Ancestors, however, it was the rich imaginations of the storytellers who explained the relations of humans to their natural and supernatural environments.  What is most interesting, is the fact that their explanations were not that far removed from the scientific ones.


 

ORAL NARRATIVE CONT'D


Just like any human, Native people were eager to understand their place in the cosmos and in the long winter months the storytellers obliged by weaving magical tales. Spectacular stories are found all across Turtle Island. On the Northwest coast however, coupled with the great dance dramas which were an integral part of the Yaawk (Feast) ceremonies my Ancestors were kept enthralled with grand tales about the varied relationships between humans/animals and humans/cosmos, they laughed and cried with Culture Hero Raven as he sought to bring order to the world.  Stories and dramas abounded through the Sun Dance ceremonies of the northern Great Plains (Blackfoot, Peigan, Blood, Sarcee) the Central and Eastern Woodlands (Ojibwa, Cree, Huron, Haudenosaunee); Inuit; the wondrous stories of the Mi'Kmaq and other maritime tribes and the Annishinabe peoples with their Culture Hero, Nanabush.

As noted above, speeches/narratives were a crucial part of ceremonial occasions as the dance/music/storytelling dramas sought to ground Native people in their histories. Often long and complex, they covered a variety of topics and claims. The the best of the oral tradition was designed to pass on knowledge, history and ownership of, for example, important crests, totems, names, beliefs, history and territory. Narratives included: (1) of how to behave, (2) overcoming obstacles, (3) exceptional courage and sacrifice, (4) how to make clothing, prepare food, build long houses, carve totems, (5) dealing with cowardly denial, selfishness and jealousy, generally how to behave with others (i.e. manners, protocol),  (6)understanding the world of the supernatural, and explanations about the place of humans in the natural world were vital to the overall health and future of the tribe. The spoken word and Truth were interconnected and it was with the utmost trust that Indigenous people received the tales of those who had gone before.

Most narratives contained malevolent and evil-doing spirits which had to be confronted or counteracted by an opposing positive power. Power was an important concept for Native people. It  primarily was the property of the spirit world, therefore the ‘crying for a vision’ to acquire guardian spirits was an important event in the life of a young person, since one had to possess at least minimal amounts of spiritual power in order to survive in often harsh environments.

MISSIONARIES AND THEIR DELUSIONS
Missionary damnations of Indigenous culture was as a result of refusal to acknowledge or understand the descriptive narrative base of Indigenous languages. Patriarchal Christian biases, coupled with attempts to translate the stories into a utilitarian language such as English caused a double jeopardy of linguistic confusion and misinterpretation. This distortion turned colourful transformation figures such as Raven, Glooscap, Napi and Coyote were reduced to mere caricatures of buffoonery.

Of note, is the fact that there is no Indigenous word for "trickster"; each figure had its own name. 

It was simply beyond the pale for the average missionary to contemplate them as akin to the level of Jesus Christ - that is a figure sent by the Universe to bring order to the world. Clutching rosaries and muttering homilies, Christian missionaries scuttled about, "Raven, Jesus, Coyote in the same sentence?" "I don't think so!" and so, the culture heroes were relegated to the only other place in Christian sensibilities, hell and Satan.

 

 

MYTH OR LORE?

Indigenous narratives defy simple classification. 'Myth' seems to be a popular category, but it is incorrect. Myth, by definition means the stories are not real because they refer to fictitious themes that include imaginary persons or things that were spoken of as though they existed. Indigenous story themes did exist and in real time, albeit sometimes in an altered or supernatural state. Narratives also passed down important claims and entitlements that included territory, crests, clans, names.

If labels are to be applied 'Lore' is probably closer because it invokes a teaching, or the act of being taught by someone who has knowledge of a particular subject of a traditional nature. Please lose the preface "FOLK". We are talking about a noble people whose rich, passionate, "stand alone" history, culture and social organizations are grounded in a set of deep knowledge and values!

 

 

A SINGLE DEITY OR SUPREME BEING?

Unlike the Christian concept of a single, male God responsible for the creation of the world, Indigenous people, as a general rule, did not believe in a single supreme, autonomous, and eternal being who was all-powerful and established the conditions under which all living things would live. This idea was imposed after the arrival of the missionaries.

To believe this was to disbelieve that the secular and supernatural worlds were inter-connected cohesive spheres of activity in which all living beings played an equal role.  To the Tsimshian, for example, there are no Creation stories per se because it was assumed the world was always there. ASs noted above, there are however, a myriad of Raven stories. 

For many tribes, there was no supreme puppeteer directing the action; each living being had its own gifts and talents, and as long as everyone knew their place and did their job, the world hummed in unison for another day.  In other words, Indigenous people did not see themselves as superior to the rest of the natural world - everyone was thought of as equal, intelligent, self-directed and able to communicate their gifts and talents for the greater good of the whole.

Such kinship, respect, dignity, celebration and honour was accorded to all because it was believed everyone came from a common beginning. This is why Indigenous people usually end with the words 'all my relations'.

"We must broaden our way of thinking so that it recognizes the world as one human family, We are all children of one blood. It can be no other way, for there is a central source of humanity where all living beings were created." (Gandoox, Tsimshian Elder, my Mom).

In post-European contact some tribes, under the pressure of Christian dogmatism, conceded a "God position". A Creator/Great Spirit figure was adopted. An important distinction is the fact that Indigenous version was NON-GENDERED. It was a powerful deity made up of equal parts of female and male. Over time, unfortunately, Indigenous people became lazy and simply started referring to this entity as 'he' instead of Creator or, Great Spirit. It's a shame and wrong and buys into the whole male domination scenario. Thunderbird does not go there!

 

 

MAIN CATEGORIES OF THE INDIGENOUS ORAL NARRATIVE

The Creation of the World can be loosely categorized under two main headings:

EARTH-DIVER STORIES (CREATION STORIES) -  Like all the earth's people, my Ancestors were no different in wanting to understand their origins. Where did they come from? Who sent them? How did they emerge in their present form on the earth. Many stories tell of a great flood that covered the earth thereby setting the stage for the magical creation of the earth, the origins of the cosmos and the interrelations of its elements.

Here the Earth Diver myth of the Eastern Woodlands, Northern Plains, for example, has either Great Spirit or the Transformer (Culture Hero) diving or ordering other animals to dive into the primeval water to bring up mud, out of which the Earth would be fashioned. There is a Lakhota story in which the Creating Power "sings" a great flood into existence in order to destroy an unsatisfactory first creation; then, when a turtle brings mud back from the depths of the waters, the Creating Power "sings" an entire new world into existence.  Music, thus, creates as well as destroys.

There is also the bogus explanation that Turtle Island's Native people came across a land bridge known as Berengia (Bering Strait); wherein it sells books and satisfies the average academic's driving need for empirical evidence, there is not a thread of truth to it.

"There is a commonly held belief that thousand of years ago as the world today counts time, Mongolian nomads crossed a land bridge to enter the western hemisphere, and became the people known as the American Indians. The truth of course, is that Raven found our forefathers in a clam shell on the beach at Naikun. At his bidding they entered the world peopled by birds, beasts, and creatures of great power....at least that's a little bit of the truth."
(Bill Reid, Haida Artist)

EMERGENCE STORIES - For many other Native tribes, people did not originate in an already created world (like the Garden of Eden), but, rather, they emerged from the womb of the Earth Mother; they were called out into the daylight of their Sun Father. Most widely developed among agricultural peoples, the Emergence story narrates the original  passage from darkness to light, from chaos to order, and from undetermined to distinctly human form. The dynamic of evolution—that life evolves from one form to another—serves as a fundamental metaphor for transformations of all kinds.  

Examples from the Pacific Northwest Coast:

  • Tsimshian  Raven burst from the mountains, carrying with him the first conscious thought for humans and organized the world from his imagination, largesse, cunning and his compassionate desire to help the weak two-leggeds.  He temporarily blinded a selfish old woman who controlled the tides, until she agreed that they could go in and out twice a day; He stole the sun from Grandfather Sky and threw it up into the sky so that its golden light burned up most of the ghost people who were controlling the world.

  •  Chinook believed they were created from the eggs of the Thunderbird.  A key character is an old giantess whose advice wasn't heeded by Old Man South Wind. 

  • Haida - One day, long ago, Raven was on a desolate beach. Alone, he needed company and came upon a half-opened clamshell. When he examined the shell, he saw tiny people inside. The people were shy and slowly peeked out of the shell. "Come out! Come out!" called Raven. The tiny beings opened the shell and climbed onto the sandy earth. These were the first Haida. The photo is of a huge, wondrous carving by the late, great Haida Artist Bill Reid depicting Raven and the First Humans.

  • Lakhota There was another world before this one, but the people were disobedient. Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit) was not happy and decided to make a new world. He sang many songs that brought heavy rain. By the time they were sung the rain was so heavy it split apart the world and everyone drowned. Only Kangi (Crow) survived asking Wakan Tanka to make a new home. From a giant pipe bag, animals and birds emerged. Four animals were selection to go below the great waters and retrieve a bit of earth - Loon, (Ptan).  Beaver (Cápa) tried but were unsuccessful. It was Kèya's (turtle) turn and was gone a long time. Everyone was convinced that Turtle had drowned. Eventually Turtle returned with feet, claws and the cracks between the upper and lower shells full of mud. Singing, Wakan Tanka shaped the earth in the the form of a turtle to honour its bravery.

 

CULTURE HEROES AND THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WORLD

Frequently, but not always, the stories represent the Cultural Hero, as primarily a comical character who engages in shape-shifting buffoonery while stealing light, fire, water, food, animals and even humans; this character often lost them or set them loose to create havoc in the world. (Raven among the Nuxult, Tsimshian, Haida, Hare; Nanabush among the Anishinaabe; Frog in the Columbian Plateau; Coyote among the Blackfoot).

This is a very superficial and not very flattering picture of a much loved, and very important figure in the Indigenous oral narrative. The stories are legendary about Culture Hero, Raven and his ability to shift shapes in order to help organize the world. He shifted back and forth between human and raven.  Shapeshifting was not random, it was always done with a purpose and was the responsibility of the Culture Heroes. Some examples of the culture heroes:  Glooscap (Mi'kmaq), Wisikawejak (Cree), Nanabozho (Ojibwa), Iktomi (Spider), Plains, Napi (Blackfood), Michabo (Algonquin)

Culture hero’s represent change/transformation and are beloved, magical, compassionate and practical figures (i.e. Pacific Northwest Coast Raven) that helped change the external (physical) form of the world as well as the inner nature of it using often miraculous means to do so. In North America, Culture hero is characteristically portrayed as a figure that was capable of traveling back and forth between the secular and supernatural worlds because at the time only a thin veil of mist separated the two. The magic of Culture Hero was its catalytic magic to change the world. It has a perfectly balanced left and right brain to solve problems and the ability to utilize a variety of human traits in the quest to settle the world, and also for the good of humans, because it loved them. For example, logic, creativity, patience, impatience, honesty, dishonesty, love, hate, joy, sadness, greed, seriousness and humor were all employed in varying degrees depending on the situation. Many Creation stories revolve around the ability of Culture Hero to use these gifts to overcome complications quickly, and with a high degree of shapeshifting energy, physical agility, mental discipline, good humour and for the most part good intent. Very human! Culture Hero simply did what needed to be done and what had to be done. In other words, there was no difference between need and duty when good intention was the goal.

Culture Hero, he often appears as an extraordinary human (i.e. Glooskap) who possesses supernatural powers, and who brings the world into its present form by heroic feats. In the Columbian Plateau and Great Plains, there are said to be two Transformers (more precisely, a Transformer and a companion who is a brother, sister or other relative). They try to outdo each other in feats of strength, ability or cunning that result in the formation of the world as it now exists. Raven of the northwest coast has stories of a brother associated with him as well, known as the Lazy One, who is more likely to follow along and let his brother do all the work and then try to steal his ideas. (Photo above, status in Millbrook, Nova Scotia)

In other words, Culture Hero is either a shape-shifting animal or supernatural figure with human traits. There are literally hundreds of them from all across North America. They are credited with pretty much all of Indigenous culture from how to dig a well, to bringing fire, humans, games, weaving, existence of light, making tools, creating arrowheads, creation of food, trees, plants, grasses, rituals and ceremonies. It is endless.  Shapeshifting was not permanent, it was simply a way for the Culture Hero to get the job it was involved at the time done.

Culture Hero examples - Raven (Pacific Northwest Coast; Nanabush (Ojibwe); Glooscap of the Mi’Kmaq, Maliseet, Abenaki), Ptesan Wi (White Buffalo Calf Woman, Lakhota), Gaqka or Crow went to the south and, listening to the earth, learned all the stories, and brought back storytelling to the Seneca.  These figures were not 'Creator' figures, but rather responsible for bringing order to the world.

 

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MORE THEMES AND CATEGORIES

Many stories tell the origin of the Sun, Moon and Stars. There is usually a tension between the heavenly bodies; e.g., the cool moon by night is said to be necessary to counteract the burning of the Earth and the killing of people by the heat of the sun in the day. An Inuit story tells of the sun and moon as brother and sister, but since they have engaged in incest in their human lives the are doomed to eternal separation. Another humorous telling, has Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon in perfect harmony with each other for the simple reason that they never see each other - ah! a lasting relationship!

  • INSTITUTIONAL STORIES: Origins of religious institutions, such as the Sun Dance (Northern Plains), sacred Medicine Bundles (Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwa, Iroquois); Winter Ceremonies (Coast Salish, Nuu-Cha-Nulth; Green Corn Ceremonial (Haudenosaunne False Face and Corn Husk Societies.)

  • ORPHEUS STORIES: Culture Hero makes a perilous journey to the realm of the dead to bring back a deceased loved one. Stories often contain detailed characterizations of the land of the dead, and are important to an understanding of such diverse phenomena as the Plains Ghost Dance, concepts of the soul and many aspects of the Spirit Doctor. Such stories are prominent in the Eastern Woodlands (Huron, Ojibwa, Montagnais-Naskapi, Iroquois, Ottawa); the Northwest coast (Salish, Kwakwaka'wakw, Nuu-cha-nulth, Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit); the Columbia Plateau (Thompson, Okanagan, Carrier, Salish, Interior).

  • RITUAL STORIES: Detailed texts for the performance of ceremonials and rituals by which cosmic order is dramatically represented, Sun Dance, (Plains); Potlatch,( Pacific Northwest coast); Midewiwin ritual (Ojibwa). Fertility, birth, initiation and death rites are often clearly stipulated in stories. Spiritual performances may also be described. Young men at puberty make extended stays in remote areas to fast, pray and ‘cry’ for a vision in order to acquire guardian spirits. Such an encounter would ensure prosperity, health and success in hunting and fishing, as well as prestige within the tribe.

  • TRIBES AND THE CONCEPT OF TIME: Time is considered to be divided into the present and a remote ancestral period when things were different from now. The state of the profane world is brought into being by Culture Hero. Concepts of the future are developed principally as they refer to the death of the individual and her afterlife. Most tribes divide the year into two seasons, the profane time (Spring/Summer when the physical needs of the tribes must be met, i.e., planting, hunting), and the supernatural world (winter) in which most ceremonials take place. The Haudenosaunee have a more complex schedule because it is based around agricultural harvest times of various food plants.

  • DEATH: The world of the dead lies at a great distance from the world of the living, often beyond a great river, on islands far out at sea, or in the remote mountains or in the underworld. It can only be reached after a difficult journey by the dead, or a perilous one for the living (i.e. shamans, the spirit figures of the Orpheus stories).

  • UNSEEN WORLD - The world of the Supernatural is believed to be circular, covered by the physical world; These levels are joined by a ‘cosmic axis’ which may be separated/connected by a thin white veil (Tsimshian), ‘world tree (Tree of Life) or a rainbow bridge and are the backbone of the worlds (The Milky Way). Star Husband (Temogami Ojibwa); the Chain of Arrows (Tlingit) or the Stretching Tree (Chilcotin) all represent this axis that connects the seen and unseen worlds. In ceremony, columns of smoke, central house posts or the central pole of the Sun Dance lodge also represent this axis.

 

 
INDIGENOUS THEATRE, ORAL NARRATIVE, MUSIC, DANCE

 

"You can cage the singer, but not the song....Songs reach deep in the moments
of our greatest anguish to lift our spirits."
(Harry Belafonte, Singer/ Civil Rights Movement Activist)

Stories range from lamentations of pain and despair to exhilarating action, joy and rollicking good humour.  They are, in other words, expressions of a culture that goes back to the time before recorded time and that have brought forward rich histories to the present day,

I think it can be successfully argued that the modern day MUSICAL found some of its roots in Indigenous theatrical presentations. After all, they contained all the components for a magical time. A really good Story, Music, Vocals, Instrumentation in the form of drums, flutes and shakers, Actors, Narrators, Stages, Sets, Props and Costumes. I revel in being able to tell my stories from an Indigenous perspective using as many artistic mediums as possible while staying true to traditional Indigenous artistic integrity. Many of the stories are all about good character: Truth, Honour, Respect, Wisdom, Courage, Love, Humour, Passion, Sharing, Caring, Humility. They are reconnections to the vital rhythms and currents of Indigenous cultures all across Turtle Island. They demand that you LISTEN, UNDERSTAND, ENGAGE, FEEL and CARE.

Traditional Stories when framed within contemporary expression can leave audiences breathless with the sheer beauty and spirituality of the experience.  Such productions resonate with the uniqueness of the Indigenous voice. 

Music genres such as rock, hip hop, rap (provided lyrics are non-violent), modern dance all meld beautifully and are often the best way to introduce Native youth to their rich history. Even better when they find the courage to perform the stories themselves on hand or big drums.

 


PACIFIC NORTHWEST COAST

Speeches and Stories were a crucial part of Yaawk (Feast) ceremonies. ('Potlatch' is the commonly used term, but I don't use it because it is a hybrid word that came out of the Chinook trading language). They covered a variety of topics and claims which passed on knowledge, history and ownership of, for example, important crests, totems, names, beliefs, history and territory. Beautifully carved masks and costumes added to the drama and colour of the performance.  Often a huge curtain woven out of red cedar was used to divide the supernatural world from the physical world. The performances were vivid, sometimes violent, always entertaining. Pounding drums, vocals and music also accompanied the show making it a true Indigenous musical.

Stories contained malevolent and evil‑doing spirits which had to be confronted or counteracted by an opposing positive power. Power was an important concept for Native people. It primarily was the property of the spirit world, therefore "crying for a vision" to acquire guardian spirits was an important event in the life of a young person, since one had to possess at least minimal amounts of spiritual power in order to survive in often harsh environments. The acquisition of power was a common theme in storytelling in a pan-Native sense.

 It starts as guests arrive in their elaborately carved canoes for a Feast Extravaganza called a Yaawk. Eagle stands and waves a greeting as the guests approach.

Everyone steps ashore and the host family with drums pounding, wearing their best regalia greet the guests with a traditional sprinkling of white eagle down over their heads as sign of peace and harmony.

An individual given the right to portray Raven, for example and wear a mask must be a member of the nobility or royalty and initiated into a secret society. Upon initiation, he or she could practice Halaayt, the ritual manifestation of power. The Privilege portion of Halaayt, therefore is simply being a member of the elite and therefore having the right to practice halaayt. The Naxnox  (Wonder) is the mask and the mask wearer considered to be a single entity. The right to wear a mask was passed down through families, and a Yaawk was usually held to acknowledge the "changing of the guard" if a wearer died or retired. Nothing was left to chance, in other words. "The wearing of masks is ultimately a statement that one accepts that ultimate transformation – the one transformation that occurs without human choice – and the wearing of the mask is literally an embracing of that fate.”

The masks were always carved with eyes that dominated the mask. This was meant to convey the importance of being able to see and use insight into understanding the Tsimshian world view.

“The eyes of the mask look to see the spirits that hid behind material reality. Seeing and hearing are important to our culture; people who do not take the time to look and listen mindfully are considered unworthy. Seeing and hearing properly lead to understanding wisdom.”(Listening to Our Ancestors: The Art of Native Life Along the North Pacific Coast. Washington: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, pg. 104.)

Mastering the intricacies of the ceremonies took years and years of training, never mind the sheer physical requirements of wearing awkward and heavy masks carved from weighty red cedar. In the case of transformation masks, i.e., Raven changing to a human, there was usually a mask within a mask, the outer one opening and closing using a series of ropes. The Raven Dancer on the right in the above photo is wearing a mask with a four foot beak - powerful physiques, neck and shoulder muscles were a definite must!

 



INDIGENOUS MUSIC & DANCE -WHY DO WE SING & DRUM? 

 

SONGS OF THE AGES: INDIGENOUS ‘LIVING’ ART 

To all People, let's create music and song because:

  • It is one of the greatest achievements humans have created for themselves.

  • It is the universal language of peaceful communication.

  • Music is a 'fact of life', a 'living' art and its social and cultural influences are incalculable.

  • It serves all human action and behaviour because it both carries and helps shape cultural life, individual intelligence, creativity and social consciousness.

  • From the depths of our impulses and emotional responses our songs can be the cry of the heart, the transfiguration of the spoken word.

  • It is the unfolding of our comprehension of the universe, the very essence of life.

  • It is a natural reflex of the soul's impressions which cannot be expressed in less spiritual forms.

·    Indigenous Music, Drums, Storytelling and Dance are inseparable. Before European contact, however, most singing was functionally employed to accompany dancing which explained the liberal use of vocables such as way-ya, hey-ha, hey-yo (the First Nations version of do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti, do!). Songs were created in three ways: (a) vocables, (b) Indigenous language, (c) a combination of language and vocable.

Call and Response songs were popular as a way of teaching children their language in an entertaining way. In later years music became more stand-alone, and harmonies were added, but movement was never far away. You simply cannot stand still when the drums are pounding! What hasn't changed is music, like Indigenous life in general, is community based. Indigenous communities follow the traditions of the great circle where all things are connected. There are some solo parts, usually the first line of each round of a song, but not long solos. A combination of language and vocable is the most popular method of producing traditional songs today. This is how I write all my traditional music. This way, everyone can at least sing the vocable part.

 


INDIGENOUS PEOPLE SING BECAUSE:

  • We are so linked with Mother Earth that our voices are an expression of that connection.

  • It is a critical element to our Cultural Grounding.

  • It is a rhythmic succession of sounds and different pitches that are an integral part of our our collective consciousness that comes from the melodies of of nature: laughter & voices of children, call of birds, cries of animals, throb of the pulse, break of the waves, hoof beats of animals, falling rain and the songs of the four great winds.

  • Rhythm, Melody and Harmony pleases the Ancestors.

  • Our music arises from the centre of self-preservation rather than self-indulgence or self-consciousness

  •  Back in the day, we needed to accomplish a specific result in tandem with nature, when it was beyond our power to achieve it alone. Hence there were songs for each Season, Honouring the Ancestors, Elder, Chief or Warrior, Healing the sick, Praying for rain and good hunting were mainstays within tribal cultures.

  •  Let's sing because this is simply the way of it.....Wilwilaasyk, All my relations.

    DESCRIPTION OF POWWOW MUSIC 

     

 

 WHY DO WE DANCE? 

  • To please our Ancestors. 

  • To celebrate life and living.

  • To bring harmony, balance and peace to a fractured world.

  • To feel the rhythm of the body bringing us into alignment with ourselves and all that is important.

  • To love Mother Earth and to hear our heartbeats mesh with hers.

  • To honour the Four-leggeds, the Flyers, Swimmers and Crawlers by copying their movements for we recognize they are far stronger than we are and we respect their power and generosity.

  • To honour Grandfather Sky, Grandmother Moon, Grandfather Sun, for we recognize that they are by far the most powerful of the living beings and we recognize that without them we would not exist.

  • To feel the warmth of the sacred fire as we dance around it and allow our prayers to be carried to Great Mystery.

  • To be near water and feel its healing drops on our faces, glowing in the shimmer of liquid magic, hearing the song of Orca and its magical teachings.

  • To feel the wind and the cleansing air wash over us as we spin and twirl and raise our eagle feathers in celebration.

We dance because this is simply the way of it....
Wilwilaaysk
, All My Relations.

DESCRIPTION OF POWWOW MUSIC 

 


ABOUT THE ORAL NARRATIVE: AN OVERVIEW

As  Father Sky continued to turn (meaning as the years went by) more and more technology has entered the lives of humans, and my role as a keeper of sacred knowledge began to fade. It all started "back in the day" with the invention of the printing press which started the erosion of the oral narrative. The stories became words in books, but the subtle nuances, understandings and knowledge were lost. They became 'stand alone' narratives and the connections to the culture from which they originated was irretrievably severed. Moreover, the Internet has shrunk the planet even more and people can  move around wherever they desire even to the most remote places with the simple click of a mouse.  It seems that this encroachment into unfamiliar territory includes collecting and retelling cultural histories without a real understanding of the culture from which the narratives come. And....we no longer have the patience to sit quietly and listen to the truth.

Unfortunately, today the modern teller is seen merely as an entertainer primarily for children, who works for very little (expectation usually being no payment) and simply recites words. A far cry from the once important person who had professional  status in the community.

As a chronicler of Indigenous culture, I am reclaiming the honour and professionalism as a cultural guardian charged with the responsibility of being a powerful voice of change within the modern world. This vital aspect risks being lost in the mists of time as the world speeds up and our attention spans wane.

The true role of the Narrator is to teach about our cultures cultures, morals, spirituality, laws, and social values, that govern a community. Using the Oral Narrative as the forum, knowledge, values and beliefs are passed to future generations. Wilwilaaysk, All My Relations.

 


A Variety of Stories & Meanings     

Animal: A-M       &      Animal: N-Z         &           Cosmos    &       Creation

Plus

More on the Power of the Drums

 

 

 

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