The Hippo


May 26, 2020








Featured storyteller Medicine Story. Courtesy photo.

Dawnland Storyfest

When: Saturday, Feb. 7, from noon to 8 p.m.
Where: Mariposa Museum & World Culture Center, 26 Main St., Peterborough
Cost: Free, donations accepted

Stories where the sun rises
NH’s first Native American storytelling festival

By Allie Ginwala

Storyteller Papa Joe Gaudet isn’t one for pioneering new events. 

“I don’t really like to start new festivals,” said Gaudet, board member for New Hampshire Storytelling Alliance. “I generally think we have a lot … that just need more support so I would much rather be helping out something that I believe in.” 
But when it comes to creating an opportunity for New Hampshirites to share stories, cultures and traditions, he’s willing to make an exception. 
“This is something that didn’t exist,” he said.
To help fill the void, the Storytelling Alliance organized Dawnland Storyfest, New Hampshire’s first Native American story festival hosted by the Mariposa Museum & World Culture Center in Peterborough on Saturday, Feb. 7, from noon to 8 p.m.
Put together in only 30 days, the February festival came together as a way to host storyteller Medicine Story as featured speaker. An Assonet Wampanoag elder, philosopher, storyteller, poet and lecturer, Medicine Story (also known as Manitonquat) has written 10 books and spoken to peace conferences and groups on three continents.
With the spring, summer and fall already filled for both Medicine Story and the New Hampshire Storytelling Alliance, Gaudet went to the town of Peterborough to suggest a festival in the winter. 
“The Mariposa has been incredibly helpful and the town library and other commercial entities were right behind,” Gaudet said. “Once I started talking, it just sort of avalanched.” 
The festival’s name, Dawnland, reflects the title the native tribes gave this region, Gaudet said. “We’re using English translations … but all of them called this ‘Dawnland,’ the area where the sun rises,” he said. 
Dawnland refers to the eastern region, which extends into Canada as well.
The goal for Dawnland is to become an annual festival each February, a fitting time to tell Native American stories. Gaudet explained that some tribes and cultures believed that telling stories was reserved for wintertime, a traditionally non-workable season spent gathered together inside.
The inaugural festival will be broken into two segments so guests can choose to spend a few hours or the whole day immersed in stories. 
“You can spend eight hours listening to stories and never hear the same one twice,” Gaudet said.
Open to all ages, the festival starts at noon with a social at the Mariposa Museum that gives guests the chance to meet and chat with the guest tellers. The featured “concert” with Medicine Story begins at 1 p.m. and will be followed by an open circle. Open circles, Gaudet said, give everyone a chance to tell a story, regardless of their experience or background. 
Three New Hampshire tellers, Kim Hart, Peter Brodeur and Debra Ballou, will share at 3 p.m., followed by another open circle. Two children’s story groups from Rindge and Jaffrey will share their stories before the festivities break at 5 p.m. for guests to visit local restaurants and shops in Peterborough. The evening will finish with another concert with Medicine Story at 7 p.m. and a final open circle.
“There are hundreds of Native American stories, many of which are teaching tales; [it was] pretty much the education system of the early inhabitants of this land,” Gaudet said. “The way they would teach was to watch for teachable moments and tell a story that would help direct the energies of the listeners, which would help form how they think about things.” 
As seen in the February 5, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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