Elders’ Teachings


Elder Vincent Stogan


The intention of the website is summarized by a teaching of the late Dr. Vincent Stogan, Tsimilano, our dear Elder from Musqueam. Tsimilano taught us that Hands back… Hands forward guides us to reach back and learn from those that have gone before us, and then reach forward to pass on the teachings to those that are coming after us. At the start of our gatherings, Tsimilano asked us to form a circle, in which to share good thoughts for establishing a comfortable learning and working environment. We extend our left palm upwards, to symbolize reaching back to receive teachings (knowledge and values) from the Ancestors and those who have travelled on knowledge pathways before us. We are then given the opportunity to put these teachings into our everyday lives. We also have a responsibility to pass those teachings to others, especially the younger generation, which is shown when we hold our right palm downwards. In the circle we join hands to connect with each other and to symbolize the value of cooperation.

In the context of Indigenous Storywork Hands back… Hands forward has involved working with Elders to understand the nature and purpose of Indigenous stories, and then working to bring these lessons into current day education, both in the classroom and in the home.

As both a retired educator and an enthusiastic grandparent, Jo-ann Q’um Q’um Xiiem, welcomes conversations with all those that want to learn more about and contribute to Indigenous Storywork.


Lady Louse Cleans her House

Elder Vi Hilbert


How better to think about Indigenous Storywork than by using a story. Here is the story of Lady Louse, a story that was often told by Vi Hilbert, an Elder of the Upper Skagit tribe of the Puget Salish in Washington State. In the following video the story is being told by Q’um Q’um Xiiem, Dr. Jo-ann Archibald. Keeping with cultural practices Jo-ann always starts a story by indicating the origins of the story such as the storyteller and identifying the Indigenous culture and geographical area.

The video of the Lady Louse story (below) should be recognized as having two parts. The first part, the storytelling, finishes at 2 minutes 48 seconds. In the second part (after 2:48) Jo-ann gives an example of an interpretation of the story (just one of many possible interpretations).

If Jo-ann was using the story in a teaching setting her practice would be to stop at 2:48 and ask her students/listeners to think about their own interpretations and to share them with others. In other words, there would be the opportunity for reflection and imagination rather than listening only to the interpretation of the storyteller.

If you would like to “participate” in Jo-ann’s session, pause the video after 2:48, and reflect on you own interpretation of the story before listening to the final part of the video..

With this story as an example of Indigenous Storywork you might pause and think about “lessons” (or understandings) and notice that lessons can be of two types. First, there are the lesson(s) suggested by the specific story. In this case the lessons we might learn from Lady Louse. And second, there are the lessons/skills being implied by the approach used by the storyteller. In this case the lessons about cultural practices that can be learned from the way Jo-ann tells the story.