Nanabush stories are coming to Little Current

LITTLE CURRENT—The snow is on the ground and that means the Trickster is snuggled down for his long winter’s nap. This is the traditional time for the telling tales of Nanabush, or Nanaboozhoo, as to invoke his name while he is awake will pique his interest. While he may be considered a somewhat “benevolent” spirit, he isn’t nicknamed “The Trickster” for nothing. Having him around can sometimes be… uncomfortable, but stories of his exploits are always entertaining.

On February 2 and 3, the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation (OCF) will be hosting their Eko-Zhaanching (ninth) Annual Anishinaabewin (Anishinaabe ways of life) Conference at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre—this year with a bit of Nanabush twist.

“This year the conference will be coming home to Manitoulin,” explained Jordon Panamick, OCF public relations officer, who noted that the conference is usually held in Sudbury. “(At the conference) we celebrate Anishinaabe knowledge in all of its forms—our traditional knowledge, our scholarly knowledge and our artistic innovation—we bring these modes all together as Anishinaabewin—the ways of being Anishinaabe.”

The conference will begin as usual with a sunrise ceremony (6 am) on Friday, February 2 and Friday evening will feature a 6 pm drum social that will be open to the public. “Everyone is welcome,” said Ms. Panamick.

This year there will be a storytelling contest associated with the conference.

“With the winter months upon us, and this being a time when the spirits are sleeping, we have added a storytelling twist to our schedule,” said Ms. Panamick. “It has led us to the theme ‘Nanabush Aadsokaanan.’ Nanabush stories are only only told in the cold months.”

The storytelling prizes are nothing to sneeze at either. Top place in each category will take home a cool $1,000.

“In the spirit of storytelling we are coming together to share our stories, research and hopes and visions for the future,” said Ms. Panamick. “The broad cross-section of speakers at this year’s conference is a celebration of excellence from Anishinaabek elders, scholars, artists and youth. We at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation are extremely proud to present Anishinaabewin. Storytellers who can share Nanabush stories are encouraged to sign up for the competition.”

Stories will be presented in Anishinaabemowin and English.

The inimitable Chris Pheasant will be emceeing the storytelling contest.

Registration for the conference is open until January 26. Fees cover both days and include lunch and refreshments. Informational and local artisan booths are welcome, but there are limited spots, so vendors are also requested to register as soon as possible.

The storytelling competition will take place on Friday, with audience applause to selecting the winners for the storytelling competition. There are three categories: youth age 13+, adult and elder (age 55+). There are five spots per category and it is on a first come-first served basis. Contestants must register by January 26. Each story has a 15-minute time limit.

The registration fee covers both days of the conference, with a $100 regular registration, $50 registration for contestants, students and elders. Vendors wishing to display at the conference will be required to supply a $75 registration fee and to provide a donation.

No drugs or alcohol will be permitted at the event and no outside food will be allowed.

The conference is presented by the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation and made possible with the support of the Government of Canada, Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts, and United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising.

For registration or further information contact the OCF at 705-377-4902.