Mary Thomas, left, Oceanna Thomas, Irene and Gerry Charley, Rob Diether and Joey Seiler participated by performing or assisting at the traditional Secwepemc storytelling workshop at the Stemete7uw’I Friendship Centre on Nov. 21. Carole Rooney photo.

Secwepemc storytelling at Stemete7uw’I

Friendship Centre society holds workshops in several communities

A crowd of about 20 people turned out for an Introduction to Traditional Secwepemc Storytelling workshop held at the Stemete7uw’I “A Gathering Place” Friendship Centre on Nov. 21.

The workshop in 100 Mile House was the final one of eight held across several communities as part of the Secwepemc Cultural Revitalization Project, aimed at building organizational capacity among First Nations.

Project manager Mary Thomas, a Secwepemc First Nations, says she is “very happy” with the results of the workshops.

They were both well attended and well received in every community, and everyone was “very engaged” in the storytelling, according to Thomas.

Stemete7uw’I in 100 Mile House was one of the communities where both workshops were held, as were Canoe Creek and Clinton. There were also single workshops held in Canim Lake and Williams Lake.

Thomas says at each workshop, the storytellers adjusted their delivery and focus to meet the needs of the audience in attendance, so those with more Elders were told differently than those with mostly children and youth.

There were two different kinds of storytelling featured, she explains.

Stseptekwll, or “legends,” are told in a dramatic way that is always fun to watch and listen to, and is an ancient style of teaching about the natural world and spiritual and cultural morals while learning about the culture, typically used by Elders in educating the young.

Thomas explains this style features characters from the Secwepemc Natural World, and may portray mystical characters/animal characters brought to life.

At most of the workshops, the performance by master Stseptekwll storytellers Gerald Charley and Irene Charley incorporated the Secwepemc Language and appropriate costumes and props, she explains.

Thomas says this ancient style of teaching increases learning about the natural world, and spiritual and cultural morals, so Stseptekwll play a significant role in teaching all ages.

Slexeyem, or “to tell” in the Secwepemc language, shares more personal narratives about events in a person’s life, often including details of one’s genealogy, personal history and everyday life, she explains.

Thomas says Al-Lasa McKay presented an amazing puppet production while explaining how to use Slexeyem storytelling as a teaching tool with dramatic shadow-play, video and music used to enhance it further.

Most of her productions told the Hunger Moon story that Thomas explains is about a hunger for culture, values and customs, while at Canim Lake, a majority of children in the crowd led McKay to tell a modified version of Snow White.

The workshops were made possible through a successful application by the Stemete7uw’i directors for funding from the First Peoples’ Cultural Council Organizations and Collectives Program grant, intended for Aboriginal arts development and practice, Thomas explains.

Stemete7uw’I Friendship Centre co-ordinator Rob Diether helped plan the cultural project.

He says after the final workshop, many of the hosts, attendees and presenters went outside to play Lahal, a traditional game of First Nations people, which was so much fun it inspired him to try to plan more of these stick games in 100 Mile House.

A Stemete7uw’I Friendship Centre director, Thomas explains the board would also like input about future needs to open its doors for traditional Secwepemc storytellers, artists and actors, and also welcome any feedback or questions you may have.

Any future Secwepemc traditional storytelling workshops will require some organizational support from the communities where they are held, Thomas says, adding they would also appreciate assistance with making some improved, fuller costumes.

For more information, call 250-945-5259 or e-mail stemete7uwi friendship@gmail.com.

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