Anishinaabe storytelling keeping tradition alive in the Northland

By KBJR News 1

March 9, 2014 Updated Mar 9, 2014 at 3:33 PM CDT

Superior, WI (NNCNOW.com) --- It's becoming rarer for people in the Northland, or anywhere for that matter, to know how to speak Ojibwe.

In an effort to change that, Anishinaabe people came together today to share traditional stories at the University of Wisconsin Superior.

To help honor the Aadizookaan, meaning, "breathing living story" in Ojibwe, Anishinaabe elders with a spiritual connection to the culture told stories of hope, love, and even loss.

"It has a lot of morals teachings, so it's important," said storyteller Joseph Sutherland.

Many stories at the storytelling event were told in a mix of English and Ojibwe...stories of the Anishinaabe peoples' history, morals, and cultural aspects.

"Our stories, our language, ya know, all of that kind of makes up who we are as a people, and our entire way that we relate with the world and... just all of it is right there," said Alex Kmet, who attended the event.

Kmet has dedicated much of his life to revitalizing the Ojibwe language.

He says storytelling is who they are and what they do.

Speakers say it's important to pass these traditions of verbal storytelling down to the younger generations.

"It empowers them; it teaches us history; it teaches us who we are as people, so... Anishanaabe," said Sutherland.

Michelle Defoe, an Ojibwe language teacher, says there are very few people that can still tell the stories and speak the language, but that gatherings like this help make that knowledge available to the community.

In Ojibwe customs the stories are told in the winter time and in the Ojibwe language.

"We need these stories to keep going to.. ya know. We're going to lose them if we don't keep telling them," said Kmet.

...all in an effort to keep a centuries-old tradition, and culture, alive.

A silent auction was also held at the storytelling event to help raise money for Anishanaabe elders.

Elsa Robins