Storytelling at Assiniboine Park

Group shot - youth storytelling program

Launched in 2021, this program aims to support mentoring relationships between Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and Indigenous youth, and offers youth participants the opportunity to share their personal narrative while staying true to traditional Indigenous storytelling. 

This initiative was a partnership between Seven Oaks School Division and Assiniboine Park. Using the Park as their classroom, the students explored and learned their ancestral ways through land-based teachings. Guided by Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and facilitated by Elders, students observed more than just the trees; they learned how the animals, birds and insects live in the forest.

The students journaled and recorded their experiences throughout the program. Their experiences, reflections and writings are now available to read on our website and along the trails of the riparian forest at Assiniboine Park.

About Elder Mary Courchene

Mary Courchene is Elder in Residence for the Seven Oaks School Division and supported the student participants throughout the duration of this program. Mary is a residential school survivor and was born and raised on the Sagkeeng First Nation. She holds degrees in Arts and Education from the University of Brandon and the University of Manitoba. As Elder in Residence, Mary serves as an overall advisor to schools and provides expertise in residential school curricula particularly at the middle school and high school levels. 

The Indigenous Youth Storytelling Program was made possible with support from the following:

Anonymous Donor, Tachane Foundation Inc., Manitoba Blue Cross, Jennifer Mauro, Portage Mutual Insurance, and by a grant from The Conservation Trust, a Manitoba Climate and Green Plan Initiative, administered by Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation.

2021 Student Participants

 - Brooke


"Elder Mary taught us important teachings towards the land and our culture..."

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 - Hayden


"Take what you need, nothing more..."

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 - Creedon


“One of my favorite experiences … was when we took a walk to check out the sweet grass, cedar, poison ivy etc .. to know all of it and how it looked and how it all smelled … and how all medicines start with something so small but make a huge impact.”

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 - Logan


“My favourite place in the park was just being outside in nature looking at all the plants and medicines … I never knew there were so many medicines and I love to see that.”

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 - Zoey


“The painted skies dance around us Telling us stories.”
— from The Land of the Living Skies

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 - Phoenix


“A time I felt connected to the land was when we were walking in the forest and all the trees reminded me of visiting my grandpa up north.”


 - Tess


“She danced there … feeling alive in the presence of the life that exists beyond her front door. Miigwetch nihki-pīhsim.”
— from a poem by Tess

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 - Michael


“Just hearing the air pass by my ears, the birds chirping and the leaves going back and forth … it made me feel back home when I entered the Assiniboine Park Forest.”

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 - Brennon


“Walk softly on the ground to respect the land, said Elder Mary.”

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 - Theran


“Elder Mary Courchene says to give thanks for the day. Give thanks for the land we walk on. That tells me not to take things for granted.”

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 - Saydie


“We need to embrace who we are.”

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 - Danae


“I enjoyed walking the trails and learning from Sara McIvor-Prouty and Carl Smith about different medicines and plants that grow around the park.”

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 - Jaiden


“The land is healing, it knows when it’s a hard time for you, it knows how to help and I’m very grateful for that.”

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