By Cristina Paolozzi, November 6 2020—
Nov. 7 marks Canadian Storytelling Day, and Storytelling Alberta is helping the community celebrate with their event titled “Legends We Share.” Storytelling Alberta describes itself as a “charitable non-profit organization that celebrates and promotes the ancient tradition of oral storytelling.” In an interview with the Gauntlet, host Chantal Chagnon, a Cree, Ojibway and Métis storyteller talks about the importance of oral storytelling and the connection this brings to the community.
Chagnon shares that Storytelling Alberta “is really a mix of people from many different cultures and many different backgrounds, sharing stories that [teach us] a lot about ourselves and how we connect together as humans.”
This event for Canadian Storytelling Day will begin with stories from Chagnon as well as co-host Ginger Mullen, who will talk more about the importance of land acknowledgements, share songs and will also feature three other storytellers who will incorporate different stories from history, with attention given to a blend of backgrounds and cultures.
“It’s really this beautiful tapestry that is strung together with the overall theme of the legends that we share,” Chagnon details, hinting at the event’s title.
Storytelling Alberta puts a specific focus on the Indigenous tradition of oral storytelling, and brings this knowledge and tradition out into the community.
“From an Indigenous perspective, storytelling is our way of knowing about the world around us. It’s a way to connect to people.” Chagnon reveals that when posed with a random statistic regarding an issue or event, “we don’t actually understand the depth of that. But as soon as we hear [those] stories, that’s when we truly have a deep understanding that storytelling breeds empathy.”
Chagnon further states that storytelling “gives a form of entertainment, a way to educate and learn and just spark imagination. It’s something that we consistently do in our daily lives without even really realizing it. When someone asks us ‘how was our day,’ when we share the story of our day, that’s storytelling. And I think it’s really important that we maintain that connection through stories.”
Like many local arts initiatives, Storytelling Alberta has had to adapt as a result of the current pandemic.
Chagnon explains that Storytelling Alberta has regular online events.
“Even though we’re not performing on stages or in different venues, we’re still coming into people’s homes and still sharing these stories continuously.”
Although things will be digital this year, Chagnon still believes that storytelling brings a renewed energy in community and connection despite the need to distance.
“Personally, I love hearing different perspectives — perspectives from different stories, from many different cultures, many different backgrounds and from different viewpoints. I think when we are able to open our eyes to the way other people see the world, and the different stories that those experiences bring forth, it is so incredible to really see exactly how similar we are, even though those differences do pop up. We’re really all living the same human experience when we share those stories, that’s truly what renews that faith in community, and that faith in connection and it makes us feel closer, even though we’re a computer apart.”