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Don't discount the playfulness of storytelling

Photo by Johan Hallberg-Campbell

(Photo by Johan Hallberg-Campbell)

NPR Audio Story --> How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger

Our Indigenous stories have always had value and taught lessons. In Navajo, we have our Coyote Stories, summer and winter stories, and so many more. This is a similar approach that I use and think about in my work related to on-the-ground community organizing efforts and integrating them with digital tools. This is one way I use stories, to help covey messages and lessons. I ask, what is the narrative? What are we trying to teach? How are we trying to make our people smarter? How do we want people to move to action? And what in community/cultural context will this work?

This particular NPR audio segment shines a spotlight on the power of Inuit storytelling techniques and how parents teach their children and set up their community. Every Indigenous person will see themselves and their communities in this. Especially, if they know their own tribal stories.

Indigenous people around the world are saying, "yes, we know". This is what we were telling you before you and colonization trashed our world systems; our knowledge, Indigenous ways of know, education systems, food systems, political systems, social systems, etc. Now we as tribal nations are relearning and rebuilding those systems, because our communities need to mend and thrive. So remember those stories, tell them, and learn them. I sure will try to do better.

I have a feeling Goota Jaw, who teaches the parenting class at the Arctic College, is going to be highly sought after. In addition, to the books, Never in Anger and Inuit Morality Play by Jean Briggs. I know I'll be look for the books on Amazon right after this post. I also want to know more about Myna 'Chubby Mata' Ishulutak. I'll be looking her up too.

It is not lost on me that the story was written and presented by non-Indigenous reporters Michaeleen Doucleff and Jane Greenhalgh on the work of a non-Indigenous anthropologist and writer Jean Briggs for a non-Indigenous audience. Or mostly non-Indigenous. I mean I listen to NPR regularly and I support my local stations. Plus, I caught the whole complicated anthropologist academic dynamic with tribal communities, I mean the whole "I study" Indigenous peoples and live with them, they adopted me" scenario is seen differently today. But I looked beyond that and took the story for what it was. It was good, got me to think, and I appreciate getting to know Inuit community members like Goota, Myna, and others.

I know we've have challenges of authorship, ownership, and expertise-ship (if that is a word) of our Indigenous works and knowledge across disciplines, but I also know there has been some genuine partnerships. And they are still good and serve a purpose with a larger audience. I'm sure other Inuit or Indigenous folks have written, reported, or produced similar works and it would be nice to see that too.

I also know some groups and institutions are committed to training more Indigenous writers, editors, reporters, producers, audio people, and digital people so we can tell our own stories. We need more. In the mean time I am strengthening my own audio and editing skills and will continue to teach others what I know via Parrish Digital. I aspire to Zacharias Kunuk (Inuk Director of Fast Runner), when he was asked why he makes films, "I see it as talking back. We picked up the camera and started recording our own history."

Here are some of my favorite lines from the story. Plus, I am loving the adorable images of Inuit babies. Ndn babies are the cutest. As I'm sure everyone says about their community. Great images throughout.

"We use storytelling to discipline,"

"These are oral stories passed down from one generation of Inuit to the next, designed to sculpt kids' behaviors in the moment.Sometimes even save their lives."

"Don't discount the playfulness of storytelling,"

"Those approaches develop self-control,"

"play as a tool for discipline"

"Kids learn emotional regulation from us."

"But fantasy play offers oodles of opportunities to teach children proper behavior.

"how [everyone learns] about the world and about their experiences."

"Which seems to be something the Inuit have known for hundreds, perhaps even, thousands of years."

"...we have ways to teach them how not to take themselves too seriously, or place themselves "above" others in negative way, and be self reflective, etc. Its little known by outsiders but we know. Humor is a great teacher, too."

"Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It's as if the adult is having a tantrum; it's basically stooping to the level of the child,"

"Turns out, the mom was executing a powerful parenting tool to teach her child how to control his anger — and one of the most intriguing parenting strategies I've come across."

"Inuit parents have an array of stories to help children learn respectful behavior, too"

"Oral storytelling is what's known as a human universal. For tens of thousands of years, it has been a key way that parents teach children about values and how to behave.

...use stories to teach sharing, respect for both genders and conflict avoidance, a recent study reported, after analyzing 89 different tribes. With the Agta, a hunter-gatherer population of the Philippines, good storytelling skills are prized more than hunting skills or medicinal knowledge, the study found."

"Could small children be somehow "wired" to learn through stories?"

[Yes! Everyone is]

"[We all] learn best through things that are interesting to us. And stories, by their nature, can have lots of things in them that are much more interesting in a way that bare statements don't.

"Stories with a dash of danger pull in kids like magnets and they turn a tension-ridden activity like disciplining into a playful interaction that's — dare, I say it — fun."

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