In my about page I use a number of terms to articulate my identity. Some of them are probably familiar to anyone reading this; “queer”, “disabled”, and “poor” are all nuanced, complex identities, but have a certain baseline level of cultural familiarity. I have a lot of things to say about them, but those will come with time.
What do I mean, though, when I call myself a ‘storyteller’? Well, the truth is…I’m still sorting that out myself.
An anticlimactic answer, I know. But it’s the truth. Storyteller is a label that means a lot of things to a lot of people, and one intricately bound up in my understanding of myself as an Indigenous Canadian, as someone Métis, whose family has lived on the Canadian Prairie since long before it bore that name.
When I call myself a storyteller, what I mean is this: I see my place in the world, in my communities, to be one of sharing. Of speaking my experiences, of hearing those of others within my community, and of bringing us together and moving us forward. Of collaborating with others whose experiences are like mine, and weaving our stories together, to create something more beautiful, complex, and true than we could alone.
When I call myself a storyteller, it’s not an individual process. Certainly there are stories I have that only I can tell; stories of my childhood, of my experiences. But the stories I want to tell are ones that need multiple perspectives. They are the stories that unite narratives, that find our common ground and build on it.
When I call myself a storyteller it is because I want to build. Other people are doing the work of destroying oppressive systems; I acknowledge them, I celebrate them, I admire them more than I can say. But more and more I have come to believe their work is not mine. Other people are doing the work of educating our oppressors; I am awed by them, by their patience and compassion. But they too do work I am not well-suited to.
When I call myself a storyteller it is because I want to look to my own communities. I want to find the seeds these others have planted, and to nourish them.
When I call myself a storyteller, it’s not because I want to tell my story.
It’s because I want to be part of writing ours.