Dozens of Humboldt and area residents came out eager to listen and learn at the Gallery on Thursday Night. Anishinaabe and Cree storyteller Lyndon Linklater was on hand for an evening of enchanting storytelling and teaching thanks to a combined effort by the Wapiti Regional Library and Humboldt and District Cultural Services.  

Linklater began by talking about his own history and the intricacies of language when it came to early translations of Indigenous languages. He mused how early European hearing of the nation name “Anishinaabe” was rendered to “Ojibway” which continues in use today by English Speakers. 

Linklater had the audience completely engaged, reciting words in Plains Cree and Woodland Cree, illustrating the phonetic differences between the dialects. Audience members were challenged to recall and use terms, make nouns into plurals, and address each other. The most fascinating revelation Linklater provided was the multiple languages’ connection to cultural and spiritual beliefs. The most striking example is the understanding that all things made by God are alive and have spirits and they need to be addressed as such. Linklater channeled literary and pop culture figure Forest Gump to reinforce the idea that there is a rock spirit, water spirit, air spirit, tree spirit – the list went on.  

Linklater shared poignant stories of the impact of residential schools on his family. His Anishinaabe father was taken into the residential school system from northern Ontario, eventually landing in Lebret. His mother, Plains Cree, escaped the confines of the schools by running away to her grandmother and hiding there, learning the language and the ways of the Cree people. Their siblings were not so fortunate, as all remained as part of the residential school system, eventually losing their language and connections to family and culture. Lyndon retold the trials of his father and his family. 

“He was five years old when they took him away. His mom and dad had no say – you have to let your children go. If you fight, you go to jail. They stripped you of your children, and off they go to these schools, and I don’t know why they called them schools – they were like prisons.” 

Linklater recalled the struggles with alcohol and with connection as part of his family experience. However, his mother strived to maintain those family and cultural bonds, and Linklater became the bearer of stories to pass on to Indigenous to settler listeners alike. 

One of the most moving moments came when Linklater produced a pair of eagle wings bequeathed to him by a dying uncle. Lyndon made the connection of the eagle, one of the most revered spirits in Indigenous cultures, as one who can soar closest to the Creator and has indeed been touched by God. Linklater took the eagle feather and crossed the faces of each audience member with it, offering a blessing. 

The event was a moving exercise of understanding and kinship. More programming will be taking place in the community during Aboriginal Storytelling Month.