Colour and Voice Reading Series with Marissa Nahanee

A unique opportunity for storytellers and writers to share different points of view in the Kéxwusm-áyakn Student Centre

People arrive, eager, happy and ready to listen to a wonderful story. Event Manager graduate Marissa Nahanee holds her drum while she waits for everyone to get their food and drinks. While Nahanee has made TV appearances on shows such as Creative Native, My TV, Tribal Tracks and First Talk, she still honoured Capilano University with her presence on March 21 at the Kéxwusm-áyakn Student Centre.

Since long ago, oral history has been a way for native cultures in Canada to document the past. Nahanee shared her wisdom at the start of her talk, and enlightened her audience on the teachings of her culture. “Our written language is different. When we see the art, we remember its teachings. For example, the bear would teach us about berries, about which ones could be eaten and which could not,” Nahanee said.

Nahanee told her stories not only through sharing her teachings with her audience, but also through singing. Nahanee sang the Greeting of the Day song, which introduced the Colour and Voice storytelling session. This wonderful song conveys the reminder that “no matter how hard the days are, we can leave yesterday’s worries behind and think of the good things ahead of us,” Nahanee shared. Afterwards, the importance of telling stories for native cultures was highlighted. “Culture saves lives. We tell legends about people to give others the opportunity to see wisdom within themselves,” she said. “Also, songs are a way to let people know who we are.”

As the session proceeded, the stories continued. Nahanee explained the different meanings drum beats have and also told the stories of “The Cedar Tree” and “The Raven.” Both of these stories contain wisdom passed down through generations, and they are shared to spread knowledge about daily activities. As Nahanee spoke, everyone listened carefully. As she was telling a story, she held power with her words. “We remember stories, which is why we should tell them.”

Through these stories, wisdom about what food ravens will eat and how bears are teachers was shared. Nahanee also spoke about the importance of creating with an intention. When someone creates something, they transmit their intentions to what they are making, which is why they should create with good intentions. “We need to be mindful of what we think when we create. Love what you do, because this way it is a reciprocal relationship with what you are creating and with others around you,” she said.

Throughout the meeting, Nahanee referred to a very important Sḵwx̱wú7mesh phrase: Chen Chen Stway, which means “lifting each other up” or “mutual support.” And this is what Nahanee’s stories did as she shared them at the Kéxwusm-áyakn Student Centre. It gifted everyone confidence in each other, which is what these teachings are meant to do.  

Stories shape culture and people and, by sharing them, we learn from each other. “It is important to learn from each other and be grateful for other’s experiences,” Nahanee said. The Colour and Voice reading series has opened many doors within the CapU community and has given students the opportunity to listen and share important perspectives and teachings. In the future, these teachings should be implemented on campus in order to create a thriving and inclusive future.

To find out more about Marissa Nahanee visit www.nahanee.com/marissa-nahanee

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