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Granny and Grampa Talking Bags Workshop

We held our very first Granny and Grampa Talking Bags workshop in Yellowknife in January. The purpose of the workshop was to help elders effectively use the Granny and Grampa Talking Bags in their communities and regions so that their knowledge becomes more accessible to families and programming.

The Granny and Grampa Talking Bags are an intergenerational resource designed to help involve elders in community programs and to give children an opportunity to learn about their cultures through oral traditions in a formal learning environment. We’ve come to understand that learning their language and culture helps to build children’s self-esteem and social identity at an early age.

I began working on the Granny and Grampa Talking Bags project over the summer as a summer student at the NWT Literacy Council. In June, I committed to creating a sample Talking Bags kit that represents the Inuvialuit culture and region. I was able to use my creativity and the sewing skills that I learned from my grandmother to help complete the cultural items in my sample bag.

In our workshop we explored the concept of the Granny and Grampa Talking Bags project and I presented my sample bag to the group. The elders were impressed with my sewing ability. I thank my grandmother for passing on that traditional literacy skill.

Before we started the planning and production phase of our workshop, I encouraged storytelling and knowledge sharing to help lead discussions around the importance of oral traditions in indigenous cultures. The elders were eager to share their knowledge and stories about traditional medicine, language, survival, and traditional practices. Every story had a lesson to be learned, a value to be cherished, and a teaching to be remembered.

On the second day, the elders began producing cultural items for their bags. We shared stories, laughter, and tears as we sewed our Granny and Grampa dolls. The workshop began to take on a new meaning. It was about making connections with each other and with our cultures. “We needed a training like this. We needed something to do with our culture” said one elder.

The elders were thankful for the opportunity to discuss the importance of storytelling, and the importance of sharing traditional knowledge with each other and with children.

I am excited to hear how the Granny and Grampa Talking Bags will help elders become more involved in programming in their communities and we’re looking forward to seeing the outcome of this project.

If you are interested in learning more about Granny and Grampa Talking Bags, you can contact me at danita@nwtliteracy.ca or call 867-873-9262 or toll free 866-599-6758 for more information.

-- Danita Frost-Arey

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