SISF 2019: Q&A with Margaret Grenier

Tell us an interesting feature of traditional storytelling in your country.

Storytelling of our oral histories has been carried through song and dance for the Indigenous people of the Northwest Coast of Canada for thousands of years. Our word for oral history translates to coming from the ice, meaning that our stories go back to when ice covered our lands.

How did you become a storyteller?

I was born into a family that carried stories of a hereditary lineage. I have been immersed in the practice of dance from an early age. It is what I have always known.

What is so magic about storytelling?

I believe that it is the relationship between the storyteller and the witness that is the magic of storytelling. Stories become a shared journey. I also believe that this relationship carries the medicine of reconciliation through cross-cultural understanding.

Do you have a favourite story?

My favourite stories are our origin stories. They are rich with imagery and they defy what we have learned to accept as what is possible or achievable. They are layered with wisdom and timeless truths.

What was the last story you performed or told?

Mînowin is a new dance work that our company is creating and it tells the story of the creation of Turtle Island or North America. It also reinterprets this story within a contemporary context.

Is storytelling becoming a lost art?

I don’t believe so no. Our stories continue to be relevant and will be always. They are easily lost however, and it is important that the next generation carries it forward.

What is the biggest challenge storytellers face?

The biggest challenge that I have faced as a storyteller is that not everyone appreciates that stories must be understood within their own set of cultural values, carrying ancestral wisdom and knowledge. I have often experienced that people who only hear the stories in their simplest form.

This year’s Festival theme is Beyond Words. What does Beyond Words mean for you?

Beyond words refers to the many relationships that interconnect through story, not only between the storyteller and the witnesses, but also between the generations that have carried the story. Even with newly created stories, this relationship exits and it connections us with our ancestors as well as our descendants.

Can you tell us about a time when you have been storytelling that connected you with another teller or listener beyond words?

Whenever I dance I experience a connection through story that is beyond words and even beyond the embodiment of narrative. There is a collective experience and a transformation of place.

How do you imagine being part of the SISF 2019 will be?

I am excited to be immersed in story. I look forward to hearing stories from many communities and I can imagine it to be inspirational, sustaining, and grounding.

Indigenous culture/language is a focus for SISF 2019: How important is heritage and culture for you?

For me heritage and culture define what I have dedicated my life to. My practice as a dance artist, singer, and narrator, all serve to carry forward these cultural practices to the next generation. My privilege is that my parents and grandmother worked to ensure that I have this foundational knowledge and I am determined to cultivate it and teach our youth. Their identity as an Indigenous person will be shaped by these practices.

Tell us something in your own language.

Luu amhl goot’ii, which means my heart is happy or I am happy.

As part of #SISFBeyondWords, our Global Lab explores the principles and goals of The Earth Charter Initiative and how storytelling can positively impact on this. What do you feel is the role of storytellers in the 21st century?

Just as we turn to our Elders for their wisdom, stories carry our Elders’ knowledge through the generations. When we come to a place of imbalance, our stories portray renewal, and demonstrate how to care for one another and our many beautiful resources with humility. Within our stories we are not separate from each other, or our environment, rather, we are interconnected and interdependent.

Global Lab – Day 5: Transforming Myth
Friday 25 October at 11am (5hrs)

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In Conversation with Margaret grenier
Friday 25 October at 5pm (50mins)

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Open Hearth
Saturday 26 October at 8pm (2hrs)

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Scotland & Canada: Spirit & Tradition
Sunday 27 October at 6.30pm (1hr)

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Masterclass: Exploring Contemporary Coastal Dance
Tuesday 29 October at 11am (1hr30)

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Wednesday 30 October at 7pm (1hr)

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