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Family activity

Did you know? with Innu storyteller Donavan Vollant

Did you know that traditional Indigenous stories are so much more than just stories? They are told to convey values, codes, life lessons and creation myths to whom want to hear them.

Many objects belonging to Indigenous cultures are tied to these traditions, which reveal the peoples’ social and cultural values. Find inspiration in objects from the McCord Museum’s collection and the work of contemporary Innu storyteller Donavan Vollant to write your own tale.

  1. Discover the objects in the McCord Museum’s collection in the gallery below.
  2. Watch the story The King of the Birds illustrated by storyteller Donavan Vollant and the Wapikoni Mobile team.
  3. Listen to Donavan explain how to write your own story inspired by a Canadian animal.

Discover the objects from the collection

  • Doll, Mohawk or Seneca, 1875-1900. Gift of Sarah Ann Kerby, ME939.1.1 © McCord Museum
  • Medecine pouch, Anishinaabe, late 18th century – early 19th century. Gift of David Ross McCord, M740 © McCord
  • Rattle, Xàniyus/Xi’xaniyus (Bob Harris), Kwakwaka'wakw, 1890-1900. Gift of the Art Association of Montreal, ME928.64 © McCord Museum

Doll

Do you know why the corn husk dolls of children from the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, culture are faceless?

The story goes that the Spirit of the Corn, who along with the Spirit of the Bean and Spirit of the Squash make up the Three Sisters that sustain the Haudenosaunee, asked the Creator if she could create a beautiful doll from her husk for children to play with.

The doll, similar to the one shown in the image gallery, received so many compliments on her beauty that she became conceited. Despite the warning she received from the Creator, the doll continued to gaze at her reflection in the water and flaunt her beauty. As punishment, the Creator took away her face.

Pouch

Did you know that the reflective strip of silver on this Anishinaabe bag has a meaning?

In Anishinaabe cosmology, the thunderbird—a very powerful sacred spirit that brings rain, thunder and lightning—was created by a higher force to protect humans from dangerous sea creatures.

On the bag shown in the image gallery, the thunderbird is represented under a band of silver whose luster evokes thunderbolts. In recognition for the safety the spirit provides, the Anishinaabe cultivate a strong relationship with the thunderbird.

Rattle

Did you know that the tiny sphere in Raven’s beak is vitally important?

A leading figure in traditional Haida legends, Raven is a trickster who turns the established order on its head to change the world. And that’s exactly what he does when he steals the light!

This Haida rattle, shown in the image gallery, represents Raven bringing the stolen sphere—the source of life and knowledge—into the universe.

In collaboration with

Wapikoni Mobile is a travelling studio for intervention, training and creation for Indigenous youth. Its mission is to amplify the voices of Indigenous youth through film and music, to disseminate their work in Canada and abroad, and to serve as a tool for professional development and social transformation.