Two friends get together to share stories and songs during the Toronto Storytelling Festival
By Rick Garrick
TORONTO – Former Premier of the Northwest Territories and National Chief of the Dene Nation Stephen Kakfwi was featured with storyteller Nacho Nyak Dän Louise Profeit-LeBlanc on May 5 at the Toronto Storytelling Festival. Kakfwi and Profeit-LeBlanc shared stories and songs virtually during their A Conversation with Northerners session.
“I enjoyed it, I felt comfortable,” Kakfwi says. “It’s different to talking on a TV screen with people’s faces on it, but these are the days we are in.”
Kakfwi says it was good to visit Profeit-LeBlanc virtually during the session, noting that he hadn’t seen her for about 40 years.
“It was a good reunion,” says Kakfwi. “There is still a kinship that we have with the people of the Mackenzie Valley, the Dene with all the different peoples of the Yukon. They’re right above the mountains so to speak.
Kakfwi says he realized it was time to start sharing his stories now that he’s 70 years old.
“I try to write down the memories I have of people, events and places that I have visited in my life, from when I was a boy of about four years old until, I I’m 70 now, ”says Kakfwi. “I like to think that I had an interesting time with interesting people, so I want to start sharing that with the world. Storytelling is one way of doing it and story writing is another way of doing it, so I try to do both. “
Kakfwi says he shared a story his grandfather’s father told him, as well as two songs about the first sign of spring and his memories of moving to a traditional camp in the spring.
“My father sang a song in 1975 and told him a story his father told him, called The First Sign of Spring, celebrating when the snow begins to melt on the earth,” Kakfwi says. “So we went from there and then we talked about how the earth speaks to you and the earth is alive, which sparked another story about young people falling in love and how they communicate that to each other at that time.
Profeit-LeBlanc says they had already decided to do the A Conversation with Northerners session like two old friends having a chat in a cafe.
“We were just sharing, and that’s the traditional way of telling stories, you know, when you meet your friend, you’re just sharing stories, what’s going on in your life,” Profeit-LeBlanc says. “It’s not so much that it was a performance in a storytelling festival, it was a conversation between two storytellers, one is a ballad and he tells his stories and he sings his songs – it was beautiful. I was so happy that we stuck to our guns and said that was how it was going to be.
Profeit-LeBlanc says it’s important to get involved in the Toronto Storytelling Festival because Indigenous people are the “first to tell” in Canada.
“There is a lot of important history, the language, the song, the places to which these wonderful stories are attached,” says Profeit-LeBlanc. “A lot of these stories are unwritten, but there is a huge orature canon. And not only is it good for our own Indigenous communities, it’s good for the world. There are so many lessons in these stories that people cannot find anywhere else. “
The Toronto Storytelling Festival is scheduled on the Zoom virtual platform from May 1 to 16 with approximately 21 visiting storytellers and around 58 local storytellers or groups. The information is published online.