The Citxw Nlaka’pamux Assembly (CNA) is offering a series of interactive storytelling sessions in an effort to raise awareness of First Nations languages, culture, and history. The sessions, held in person and via Zoom, are held weekly in collaboration with storytellers from all eight of CNA’s First Nations communities, as well as participants from across the country.
Since its inception, the storytelling series has evolved to include more activities and is being hosted on a regular basis. Initially, the program was started as a way for individuals to connect with their communities and culture during the “lockdown” period of the COVID-19 pandemic. The series is organized and run by Lena Nicholson, n?e?kepmxcín program developer for CNA.
“In January of 2021, we started doing storytelling through Zoom as a way for people to stay connected when we were under the COVID regulations,” said Nicholson.
“We started doing storytelling online a couple times a month and it really picked up, a lot of different people started joining us from all over the country and reconnecting with their heritage. The goal of our program is to get more people learning n?e?kepmxcín and speaking it.”
While the agenda may vary, typical staples of a storytelling session include drumming, introductions, stories, and conversations. The number of speakers can vary, with a number of stories often sharing the spotlight and allowing attendees to immerse themselves in multiple cultures and traditions. CNA added that the program allows attendees to learn the oral history, stories, and language of First Nations.
The storytelling series is now held weekly, and offered both online and in person since most COVID-19 health orders were lifted. It takes place at the CNA office on Granite Avenue, but events are often held in respective communities as well. The summer of 2022 saw CNA travel to a number of communities, hosting a language bingo and storytelling session. Nicholson said response has been positive, and the structure of the sessions have been popular.
“The sessions usually begin with people doing some self-introduction about who they are, where they come from, and who their family is. That’s our cultural practice. Then we have the storyteller who shares a story or two with the group, before we open it up to questions and comments,” added Nicholson.
“It’s been very positive, people are eager for us to come back again. They really enjoyed the language bingo, and a lot of people love the storytelling part of it.”
Moving forward, Nicholson will continue to focus on programming that engages more people to learn and speak the n?e?kepmxcín language. She added that a number of storytelling events are being planned in addition to the weekly series, including a possible storytelling and language event at Spirit Square, which is adjacent to the organization’s downtown Merritt office.
“I think it’s a very important part of our identity. The language is very rich, and it ties people to the land and to their history. We talk about our relationship to the land and other teachings. There’s place names, stories about how land formations came to be,” said Nicholson.
For access to language resources, or to learn more about CNA’s weekly storytelling series, visit their website at www.cna-trust.ca.