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Sask. storyteller working to preserve Indigenous culture and language

February marks Aboriginal Storytelling Month in Saskatchewan, a time to share Indigenous teachings and cultural knowledge with younger generations.

Randy Morin, a storyteller and educator, has made it his mission to share Indigenous culture and help preserve the Cree language.

“These stories hold our histories, they hold our teachings, our laws,” he said.

Morin, who is from Big River First Nation, said he started telling stories from an early age as a form of entertainment in elementary school.

Now, he works as an Indigenous Studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan and teaches in schools and communities across the country, sharing stories told and passed down from Elders.

“I have a responsibility, a moral responsibility to pass these stories down to the younger generations so that they are not forgotten.”

Morin said those stories have shaped him and have taught him about respect, generosity and bravery — things he said people can benefit from hearing about now, with the stress of COVID-19 and the horrific discovery of children’s graves on the sites of former residential schools in Canada.

“I think a lot of people can heal by going back to the stories and listening to the stories because a lot of our stories have in them solutions to a lot of the issues that we face personally, even as humanity.”

Morin said the stories are a richer experience if you can understand them in Cree as some words lose their “colour and meaning” when translated to English.

That’s why Morin, who is fluent in Cree, is working to inspire young people to learn the language through the three books he has published — Our Relatives, The Animals Give Thanks, Sun and Moon, and Morning Songs Grateful Garden.

Morin will continue to share that message throughout Aboriginal Storytelling Month.

He will be taking part in virtual storytelling workshops at schools where he will teach students how to write and embrace their storytelling abilities.

It’s all through Library Services for Saskatchewan Aboriginal Peoples (LSSAP), an organization that has coordinated events for Aboriginal Storytelling Month for the past 19 years.

“The importance of this is becoming aware of the culture and the teachings that are contained within the stories,” said Jessica Generoux, Saskatchewan Aboriginal Storytelling Project coordinator with LSSAP.

Generoux said one of the customs in the Cree culture is to tell sacred stories in the thick of winter when there is snow and the ground is frozen.

“In the past, we would spend a lot of time gathering together and sharing stories to lift those spirits, to keep people’s minds engaged with the imagination, the teachings, the knowledge and all that beautiful information that’s contained in our culture and language,” she said.

This month, 65 Indigenous storytellers will take part in in-person and virtual storytelling sessions at libraries, schools and organizations across the province.

“To promote, to protect, to preserve that custom of storytelling and to show people how important it is to incorporate Indigenous knowledge in curriculum and in the wider society,” Generoux said.

Morin said it’s an honour to be considered a storyteller — one he doesn’t take lightly

“If I can help a little bit, in some way, shape or form, then I’ve done my job.” Top Stories

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