Student Life

Storytelling and Self-Love with Kung Jaadee

Everyone has tens of thousands of ancestors, Kung Jaadee told students from several classes during a presentation in Mitchell Hall on Thursday afternoon, who walk with us every day. Those ancestors love you, no matter what. They lived through times of war, disease, and other turmoil, she added, but they also lived with a lot of love, and you are the evidence.
A professional storyteller, educator and published author, Kung Jaadee belongs to the X̱aayda (Haida), xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) First Nations. She is the author of children’s books and curriculum textbooks, and recently worked as the Vancouver Public Library's Indigenous Storyteller in Residence.
Kung Jaadee shared with the students the history of her Haida name — it means “Moon Woman,” and was presented to her at her great uncle’s memorial feast by her cousin, Crystal Robinson — and told the story of her clan, the Raven clan, and how it miraculously survived the 1862 smallpox epidemic that devastated the Haida.
She also talked about how she found her calling as a storyteller, something that came as a surprise to her. It began when she reluctantly talked to her son’s Kindergarten class, and grew from there.
“I did not want to be a storyteller,” she related. “The stories chose me.”
For the core of her presentation, Kung Jaadee shared one of her countless stories about Raven, a trickster character and an essential element of the Haida culture. In the story, after creating the world and realizing he was lonely, Raven invited people from all over the world for a great feast, and prepared gifts for everyone present. The message is that everyone is unique and has special gifts to share with the world.
“You have all been invited to Raven’s feast,” Kung Jaadee said.
The storyteller, who switched back and forth between English and X̱aad Kil, the Haida language, expressed her gratitude at being able to perform in front of a real audience instead of a computer, as she had to do many times during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It means so much to perform live,” she said. “This is how the stories were meant to be told.”
Shawnigan Head of Fine Art Mr. Declan Bartlett explained why he felt it was important to bring Kung Jaadee to the School.
“Kung Jaadee has 30 years experience as an Indigenous storyteller. At Shawnigan we strive to immerse students in the cultural richness of Vancouver Island and neighbouring islands,” he said. “Hailing from Haida Gwaii, Kung Jaadee shared songs and stories that hold relevance and life lessons that our students can learn from. This reflects an Indigenous way of learning where children are not told what to do and think but have space to reflect on their personal journey toward positive self-regulation.  
“Sharing her experiences of growing up highlighted many parallels along with the stark realities of trauma endured by her family in residential schools and the continued impact on surrounding communities. She championed a message of self-love and pursuing our individual gifts with vigour in order to share and celebrate who we are. We were privileged to hear and learn elements of the native language of Haida Gwaii as we listened to environmentally interwoven stories in timely fashion for Earth Week. It is part of a planned series of performances by First Nations artists this year to celebrate diversity, history and culture.”
Kung Jaadee closed out her presentation by singing some songs in X̱aad Kil, but not before giving the students some homework — to hug themselves every day and say “I love me.” Self-love, she explained, was something she never learned from her parents, because her parents didn’t learn it while they attended residential schools where they were taught to feel shame about themselves and their culture.
“It takes a long time to love yourself,” she said. “But it’s worth it.”
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.