It was a story about coyote that first caught Jack Spotted Eagle’s attention.
“I was about six. My grandfather, Jimmy Bonneau, always told us the traditional stories. This one was about how coyote knew the Creator was giving names to the animals and wanted to be first but he overslept and was last. His name was Sen’klip.”
Spotted Eagle started learning the stories himself.
“Sharing stories is important to aboriginal people,” he said. “The stories can be different in different areas but they are sometimes similar. Sometimes in the stories, it seems the answer isn’t there and you need to listen and figure out the lesson. The stories are told at special celebrations, in sweat houses or in family groups.
“Telling the stories is just something I do. I tell them to fit the listeners or some that I don’t know as well I will read. I find children very receptive and, of course, adults who come out are receptive as well.”
He is pleased that many of the Okanagan stories were preserved by a woman named Morning Dove in the late 1800s and are now available in English, and that more young aboriginal people are learning about their language and culture at school and at home.
“Stories are added, modern day stories as ways of teaching how to live in the modern world,” said Spotted Eagle, a social worker with First Nations people and former First Nations advocate in schools, where he told the stories to students. He has also spoken about the use of storytelling at national and international social work conventions.
“In social work you see everything, the bad outcomes, the good outcomes. These stories, old and new, can help people learn how to make authentic changes in their own lives. We have the stories from the past and the stories that are happening today. Cultures evolve.”
He also appreciates traditional music and the music and art that First Nations people are creating now.
Spotted Eagle, father of six and grandfather of six, will keep telling the stories.
His next stop is the Vernon Interfaith Bridging Project Elders Story-Sharing and Family Games Summer Solstice Pot Luck Picnic, Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Bring a potluck dish for four to share and your own hot dogs, which will be barbecued by Spotted Eagle, as well as a lawn chair if you have one, a plate, cup and cutlery. Water and dessert will be supplied.
There will also be other family entertainment and activities. The multicultural, international picnic is sponsored by the Interfaith Bridging Project and Journey for Elders, a group of rural and urban aboriginal elders which supports community projects.