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Today’s episode features an intriguing conversation between Helena, Gabrielle Lamontagne, and Kenthen Thomas. Kenthen is a storyteller. You’ll hear about utilizing the power of storytelling and drumming in education.
A Roots and Blues Festival veteran, Kenthen Thomas’ past performances have also included stints with Secwepemc Native Theatre, Dreamweaver Theatre (Simon Fraser University), Senclip Native Theatre, Caravan Farm Theatre and Shuswap Theatre. He also appeared in voice on the CBC’s legends series that appeared nationwide in 2006. He now teaches full-time with SD 73, as an Aboriginal Resource Teacher.
Kenthen has been involved with the Salmon Arm roots and blues (2007, 2013, 2014, 1015), doing both storytelling and the Secwepemc Grand Opening for the entire festival. He co-wrote, co-directed and starred in a play for Shuswap Theatre called “Legends” (2012), which had a 22-show run through the summer, and he has been consistently travelling around teaching and telling stories all across B.C. He has helped with the Aboriginal celebration and Canada Day festivities in Salmon Arm, schools in the lower mainland and in the interior.
As a First Nations performer, Kenthen captivates audiences with his fascinating retellings of legends of the Secwepemc, his family land for more than 10,000 years. This is where his late grandmother, respected (and even legendary) Secwepemc elder, the late Dr. Mary Thomas, taught him the traditional art of storytelling. Storytelling for the Shuswap people brought entertainment to families during long winter nights. It was also a way to keep the history alive, tell important lessons, and share amusing anecdotes about all the creatures found on this land. Kenthen heard from his grandmother, Mary, how a bear and a coyote found out how to create a balance between night and day. There are also stories about how trusting the advice of Coyote (Seklep) caused Bear to lose his once long and lovely tail. Tricky Coyote features in many Secwepemc legends and is often an example of how NOT to behave. Other legends that have been passed down through Kenthen’s family for generations feature the animals, birds and fish that were once integral to the lives of the original residents of this region. Their language, Secwepemctsin, and these stories have become marginalized and even endangered because of the predominance and ethnocentrism of the English language and culture in Canada.