Local Six Nations Storyteller Presents at Redeemer
3 min. read
July 27, 2010

Elizabeth Doxtader, a storyteller from Six Nations, was invited to speak to Redeemer’s Storytelling class on the evening of July 15. Professor Ray Louter invited Doxtader to speak after hearing her name at the National Storytelling Conference about three years ago. “She was scheduled to speak there but had gotten in a car accident. She is still on crutches today, which shows how serious her accident was.” Doxtader was hit by a truck in a head-on collision and spent the following years in recovery. During her bedridden months, she spent her days crafting corn husk dolls that were used in narration of many of the First Nations traditional stories. She shared the traditional story of the corn husk doll and brought her creations to Redeemer for participants to see. In traditional oral culture, storytellers were responsible for upholding the values and history of the people and were known as the knowledge base for the community. Today, Doxtader finds profound significance in being a storyteller and understands it as an essential role in her community. She began telling stories while the residential schools were still closing in Canada and has since continued to share her First Nations experience through storytelling. “It was illegal for First Nations people to tell stories or express indigenous culture,” says Doxtader, demonstrating the importance of storytelling today. “This is a country where the public has never learned that we couldn’t own land, hire a lawyer, or leave the reserve without a permit. This is not ancient history; this happened in my lifetime.” She now finds significance in not only sharing traditional stories, but also stories from Canada’s often ignored colonial record. “I think it is important for Redeemer to know who its neighbours are,” says Louter. “That is the question Jesus floats in the story of the Good Samaritan. It is especially important in our context because our neighbours are oppressed. We are the beneficiaries of this oppression. All of these things we now take for granted came at a price.” At Redeemer, Louter hopes to see more storytelling, more discussion, and more invitations to people of Six Nations to come and talk about their experience. He would like them to “feel that the door is open wide and that they can come speak here and share their stories.” “My hope for Redeemer is that we will engage more people, be open to more surprises and build alliances. Institutionally we should stand up and call injustice what it is. The Haldimand Tract needs to be looked at. There needs to be some compensation to Six Nations with no strings attached. There is only one thing we can’t do: and that is to give up, to despair.” He continues, “Having Elizabeth come speak is just one thing that we did. But if that’s all it is, then she is a storyteller who came and did what we asked her and said goodbye. But something more than that happened. You can’t hear a story of someone’s culture and life, their joy and their suffering, and not react to it. The students were deeply moved.” The Storytelling class was originally created by Professor Louter and (former professor) Johanna Kuyvenhoven in order to bring a wider appeal to the theatre courses. This summer, it was taught as a two week intensive course by Louter and was primarily attended by teachers looking to upgrade their credentials.

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