Students gather with Elder-in-Residence for an afternoon of storytelling

By: Tessa Adamski

To honour the winter solstice, Elder-in-Residence Paul Guimond lifts his pipe to the spirit of the bear, wishing it a long winter’s rest and thanking it for the courage it’s given people to express their truth. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, students at Red River College Polytechnic’s Exchange District Campus joined Guimond and musical performer Devin Slippert for a celebration of Aadizooke: Winter Solstice, which included a feast, storytelling, and a musical performance. 

According to Guimond, the winter solstice is about self-reflection, breaking and healing negative cycles, and having the freedom to express what is in our minds and hearts through storytelling. 

“We all have a story to tell and if we share that story, we educate each other and grow. Sometimes we don’t take enough time to reflect. We’re too busy being angry at what’s not there,” Guimond said.

Guimond said his mother had a beautiful way of storytelling and spreading kindness. She did not attend residential schools, unlike his father who experienced two years of trauma before he was able to run away. 

For safety reasons, “a lot of the stories were meant to scare you into staying home all winter. My parents have passed away now, and I’ve never lost a year where I didn’t talk about them,” Guimond said.

Students at RRC Polytech joined Elder-in-Residence Paul Guimond to celebrate Aadizooke: Winter Solstice at on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022. Before Guimond shared his stories, the group feasted on beef stew, the three sisters: beans, corn and squash, and rice. (Tessa Adamski)

Slippert, a first-year student in the Social Innovation and Community Development program, is a singer-songwriter and musician in the band witchy woods. 

Slippert performed an hour-long set at the Aadizooke: Winter Solstice event. Slippert said music is a way to process things that are happening in their life and to celebrate coming together. 

“It’s so nice to get to play for my peers and my classmates…I take every opportunity I can to perform. It’s my favourite part of being a musician,” Slippert said.

At the event, Guimond spoke of sitting around a fire during winter and listening to the grandmothers and kokums. He said they told stories of why geese fly in a V formation, why ducks waddle, and how the prairie chickens dance.

Guimond said it’s important for children to hear stories from their Indigenous culture and strengthen their connections with their families. 

“There’s not a whole lot of us who can talk about our parents. Some people don’t even know what their parents look like. So how can we tell a story?” Guimond said. 

Students can attend the upcoming Aadizooke: Winter Solstice event at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 14 at the Notre Dame Campus in room F209.