Storytelling workshop fosters intergenerational collaboration and cultural preservation

Stories are more than shared narratives, they are also cultural experiences. Recently published research from UNBC's Dr. Shannon Freeman demonstrates the power stories have to strengthen relationships and preserve culture.

January 23, 2020
Carrie Nash, Jenny Martin and Shannon Freeman
Carrie Nash, Jenny Martin and Shannon Freeman examined how storytelling can bring generations together while at the same time help preserve Indigenous culture.

Stories can empower.

Stories can bring people together.

Stories can be instructive.

Nak’azdli Whut’en Elders know the power inherent in their stories and a new research partnership between the First Nation and the University of Northern British Columbia is facilitating intergenerational story-telling and helping to preserve the stories for years to come.

UNBC Assistant Professor of Nursing Dr. Shannon Freeman and Nak’azdli Health Director Jenny Martin co-led the program to bring Elders and children in Grades 6 and 7 together to share stories and learn from each other.

The Elders shared their stories with the students passing down knowledge from one generation to another. The children recorded the stories, then added imagery and sounds to create digital versions of the stories that can be shared with community members for generations to come.

“It’s a win for the children because they loved learning technology and they enjoyed the stories and it’s a win for the Elders because they loved coming out and they could see the children were enthusiastic. The Elders felt valued,” Freeman says. “It’s also a win for the school because the project aligned with the curriculum. The project enables children to be users of technology rather than being recipients of something taught with technology.”

Their research is published in the Canadian Journal on Aging, titled Use of a Digital Storytelling Workshop to Foster Development of Intergenerational Relationships and Preserve Culture with the Nak’azdli First Nation: Findings from the Nak’azdli Lha’hutit’en Project.

The genesis of the project came from a desire to create meaningful opportunities for Elders to engage in different ways with the community.

“We conducted a survey of Elders in the community and discovered that many of them felt lonely,” Martin says. “This is a project that Elders got excited about; they really enjoyed going to the school and sharing their stories.”

Health director assistant Carrie Nash was instrumental in helping to run the program by promoting it to Elders in the community and helping those without access to transportation to get to the school. The feedback she received from the Elders was overwhelmingly positive.

“The children were asking lots of questions all the time,” Nash says. “The Elders really enjoyed that and they really enjoyed having that communications with the young ones.”