By David F. Rooney
Next weekend will see the inauguration of a terrific family event that Revelstoke has never before experienced — the first Stories of the Land Storytelling Festival being held Friday and Saturday, June 20 and 21.
Created to mark National Aboriginal Day this two-day event brings together the story-telling traditions of the Secwepemc, Ktunaxa, Okanagan and Sinixt peoples and invites children’s storytelling as well as stories of the land by members of the public.
“We wanted to create something special to mark National Aboriginal Day,” organizer Laura Stovel said in an interview on Thursday.
“I think this will help us imagine the land as it was before the settlers arrived,” Laura Stovel said. “Then, the huge trees grew right down to the edge of the water and people were living in concert with nature.”
The storytelling festival may make it possible to recreate that moment in time when everything we now take for granted seemed new and wondrous.
The festival, which is hosted by the Revelstoke Museum & Archives, School District 19’s Aboriginal Education program, and Okanagan College and Embrace BC, begins with an Aboriginal Storytelling Workshop at the museum on Friday, June 20. Starting at 7 pm, Jackie Cole will talk about the elements of aboriginal storytelling. Oral storytelling is an art and everyone who’d like to learn how to tell a story properly is invited to attend.
Then, on Saturday, the museum is hosting a presentation and discussion from 10 am until noon, entitled Interpreting the Stories of the Land. This discussion will focus on a proposed First Nations exhibit. There is no reserve here and conventional wisdom has it that Revelstoke was never permanently settled by First Nations tribes. But even if that was true that is not to say that there was no native presence here. In fact, the resources of this entre area were used by the Sinixt, Secwepemc, Ktunaxa and Okanagan peoples.
The day will continue with the Storytelling Festival inside a teepee to be erected at Centennial Park. After the 1 pm opening ceremony there will be children’s storytelling until 4 pm with invited storytellers like Judi Garner Niehaus who is also a talented puppeteer. Children will also get to tell their own stories, Laura said.
“One of the storytellers and singers will be Jahmilah Seymour, a young Sinixt girl from the Colville Reserve in Washington who has translated jazz songs by Ella Fitzgerald,” Laura said, adding that Jahmilah’s grandfather, Virgil Seymour will also be here to tell stories he learned from his grandfather.
By 4 pm people may be feeling a little peckish. If so, they can sate their hunger with traditional roast bannock and venison stew, which will be on sale until 6 pm.
The storytelling will continue into the evening until 10 pm.
This is a very original festival and has a lot to offer anyone, young or old, who loves the land we live in and the intertwined histories of First Nations and European settlers.
Organizing any major event requires volunteers and Laura said this festival is no exception.
“We need lots of volunteers to help with setup, serving and other activities,” Laura said. “Anyone who’d like to help should contact Peter Behnke at the Revelstoke Museum.”
Peter can be r=contacted at 250-837-3067 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.