Q: Where do art practices come from?
A: Our Stories.
“We are all about stories, and stories are all we are.” (Harold Johnson)
Indigenous Peoples have the following categories of Traditional Stories.
- Animal Time Stories
- Creation Stories
- Animal and People Stories
- Ancient People Stories
- Prophecy Stories
Indigenous Peoples also have the following categories of contemporary stories:
- Colonization Stories
- Decolonization Stories
- Indigenization Stories
Traditional Stories are sacred and have Indigenous Laws attached to them. Some Traditional Stories are seasonal (some Cree Stories, for example, can only be told when there is a lot of snow on the ground). Traditional Stories can be clan or family owned. They can also be gendered, ceremonial, and/or require Storyteller training/apprenticeships. They are subject to interpretations, have longer and condensed versions, and are sources of Indigenous Teachings, Laws and Identity.
Some nations have their own specific categories of Traditional Stories. The Sylix, for example, have the following categories:
- world-before-humans captikʷɬ
- sacred text captikʷɬ
- coyote-traveling captikʷɬ
- people-were-living captikʷ
- people-were-traveling captikʷɬ
Colonization stories are about
- Population Depletion
- Displacement and Diaspora
- Confinement (Reserves and Incarceration)
- Extraction and Imposition (Indian Act, Residential Schools, 60s Scoop, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls… Cultural and Language Loss).
De-colonization stories are about
- Political Organization (e.g. Idle No More)
- Indigenous Rights/Aboriginal Title, Protest (Oka, Kinder Morgan, Standing Rock,…)
- The Rejection of Colonial Law (e.g., the Indian Act)
Indigenization stories are about
- Cultural Rejuvenation
- Indigenous Laws
- Recognition of Traditional Territory
- Indigenizing the Academy and other colonial institutions
All of these types of stories inform and inspire the Indigenous traditional and contemporary arts in all of their manifestations. Unfortunately, the stories of people whose ancestry comes from a very small portion of the world have become dominant and privileged and imposed Indigenous peoples and other marginalized people through the process of colonization.
Gregory Younging is a member of Opsakwayak Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the Institute of Canadian Studies at Carleton University and a Master of Publishing degree from the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. He received his doctoral degree from the Department of Educational Studies at University of British Columbia. Gregory has worked for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. From 1990 to 2003, he was Managing Editor of Theytus Books. He is now on faculty with the Indigenous Studies Program at University of British Columbia Okanagan.