Inuit elder and storyteller Peggy Richardson poses with a landscape painting by her favourite Inuit painter Jutai Toonoo at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery Monday.

Storyteller’s yarns keeping Inuit culture, values alive

Inuit elder Peggy Richardson tells stories to teach the traditions and the values of the Inuit culture.

Inuit elder Peggy Richardson tells stories to teach the traditions and the values of the Inuit culture.

She draws on the stories from her northern ancestors and her experiences from her childhood in the Northwest Territories.

While she has not lived in the north for four decades, Richardson said she has always maintained her children should learn the Inuit culture.

“One of my favourite stories to tell is when I was growing up learning survival skills and learning to sew,” said Richardson, who shared stories at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery as part of the Family Day celebrations on Monday.

“When I was very young, my mother started letting me sew. I made my first pair of mukluks at the age of five. I thought they were real beautiful. As I got older, they weren’t that nice. I guess it was the effort that counts.”

Active in Edmonton’s Inuit Cultural Society, Richardson is well-known in Aboriginal circles for her storytelling and throat singing. She was born and raised in Nunavut. She moved to Calgary in 1972 where she met her husband and had her three daughters.

Her children and grandchildren heard legends such as not to use both hands when one hand will do otherwise a woman will give birth to twins. They have also heard if a pregnant woman walks over someone’s feet, she will have a difficult birth.

“Quite often they are true,” says Richardson, 61.

Richardson has called Edmonton home for about 27 years but she makes time to visit the north. She said the importance of storytelling in the Inuit culture has not dwindled and is even more important today because some fear the stories are at risk for being lost.

“Storytelling is very important because you get to know your ancestors and where you came from,” said Richardson. “By knowing your ancestors and who you are will help you feel good about yourself.”

Richardson would like to see storytelling sessions in the public schools. When her three adult daughters were in elementary school, she would often tell stories to their classes. These days, Richardson is busy keeping the art alive with her three young grand daughters (ages one, three and five).

Her five-year-old grand daughter started throat singing when she was three years old. She has performed at events such as St. Albert Heritage Days.

“I think you can get more knowledge and reality rather than watching TV,” she said. “The person is telling and the person is there rather than what is being animated on TV. You get the bigger picture when it is being told right there in front of you.”

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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