Youth connect with tradition through storytelling

The Indigenous Education Coalition (IEC) held their 7th annual storytelling event at the Antler River Elementary school on the Chippewa of the Thames territory this past Wednesday. The event had youth from the Standing Stone elementary of the Oneida of the Thames, Antler River elementary of the Chippewa of the Thames, and Kettle and Stony Point Hillside Elementary Schools from grades four to eight competing for the prize of best storyteller.

The IEC was established in 1996 and is located on the Munsee-Delaware territory. It is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing education support to First Nations and off reserve communities in South-Western Ontario. The IEC assists with Indigenous self-controlled education by developing programs, curriculum and teaching resources that provide support for education systems, including schools. IEC focuses its programs and resource development in the areas of science, numeracy, technology and culture, First Nation language literacy and English literacy. The IEC also works in partnership with non-Native school boards, communities, and schools through the development and delivery of cultural programing related to First Nations history, culture, and language in the hopes of ensuring a future of understanding and fellowship.

Eli Baxter, Attick Totem (caribou clan), Nishinawbe Aski Nation is the native language curriculum writer for the IEC, which hosted the event. The event opened with a prayer by Marlene Green, Oneida Turtle clan, of the IEC’s elders circle. In addition to Marlene Green, the judges panel consisted of Gregory Wilson (honorary member of the Marten clan) who leads and develops Education Partnerships Program, FNSSP and Youth STEM programming for IEC and John Fitz Gibbon, an Algonquin from Greater Gold Lake First Nation, and member of the Student Achievement Team with an emphasis on the Youth STEM project in the schools and communities.
Melissa Mt. Pleasant, Mohawk Nation, from Six Nations of the IEC videotaped the event.

Eli started by telling all of those in attendance about the importance of this story telling event. He stated that when he speaks he always speaks in Anishinabe as well so he connects with the spirits of the ancestors because they are always there. “When speaking in our languages and telling traditional stories you draw from our ancestor’s energy who are there to help you if you want it. I am a residential school survivor who was never given my traditional name by my parents because they feared that I would be punished by the school staff if I ever spoke it in their presence.”

Gregory Wilson said that, “this is a good event to build confidence in the students and it’s not just saying a speech it is traditional storytelling which is a cultural practice.” The youth covered different stories from different nations such as, Nanabush and the Turtle; How the stars came to be; How the Bear clan came to be. The families of the students also participated by reciting stories and teachings to the audience.

After the stories had been told and the judges adjourned to another room to make their decision, Eli Baxter led a discussion on First Nations authors and displayed many of their books. After the results were read each student and adult participants received books by various authors such as, Tehanetorens or Joseph Bruchac.

To see the results for the competition go to and click on events, then awards.

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