You know what I need? A story. When I’m working hard, my mind soothes itself by wandering into stories. It could be a movie, book, movie about a book, or even adventure tales from childhood days. It’s easy to get lost in thought especially when you have access to YouTube or Netflix. I even get lost wandering in the wilderness on Google Maps from time to time. Ok, a lot.
I need new stories during the busy academic year and real stories best fill this need. Nourishing your relationship with places and peoples through these stories connects you to countless generations and the vast world that shaped them. By doing so, you are also shaped. Better yet, with such mindfulness, you can live these stories.
Take for instance the names of the places we live in. People romantically think Toronto means place of meetings. But different histories show that Toronto comes from the Mohawk word tkaronto which means where there are trees standing in the water. This name refers to weirs used by Indigenous fishers in the area. What a drastically different story to be surrounded by. Are you intrigued yet?
Spadina comes from an Ojibwe word—Ishpadinaa–referring to high hill which the present-day avenue ascends. High Park was a savannah used by various Indigenous communities for farming. Philosopher’s Walk followed what used to be Taddle Creek, which was a vital waterway and gathering place for local Indigenous peoples who originally called it the Ziibiing.
Ever wondered why Davenport Road doesn’t follow Toronto’s grid? That’s because it follows an ancient Indigenous trail. And have you heard of the Franklin Expedition? Long story short, they sunk. But Inuit peoples who’ve lived near the ships’ resting place kept the Expedition’s story alive through oral tradition for many centuries. Epic, right?
An ancient river called Old Man River flows in Southern Alberta near where I grew up. The amazing stories of this river have shaped worldviews and histories of many peoples including the Peigan of the Blackfoot Confederacy. How has the land shaped your life and history?
In my Alberta hometown of Cochrane there is a historic ranch. Can you guess the name? Yes, it’s called Cochrane Ranche. Better question: can you guess what the town is named after??? Yup, the Ranche. I’m more fascinated by tales I’ve heard about the rocky ridge overlooking the site. I’ve heard this ridge was a buffalo jump long ago. It’s good to see home in a different light.
Now that you’ve read my story about stories, I want you to tell a story. Tell your friends or family a story about the world they live in. Go and find a story to listen to, if you need. I’m going to the ImagineNATIVE film fest from October 22-26 for this exact reason. First Nations House might have some free tickets if you’re interested. Maybe I’ll tell you a story about it sometime.
Once you’ve told some stories, ask yourself what stories are right there under your feet or in the air around you. What story are you living right now?