Information about the collaboration of Ray Lavallee with Judith Silverthorne nd their journey of creating Honouring the Buffalo.
Writing Honoring the Buffalo was a collaborative effort between Wisdom Keeper and Storyteller Ray Lavallee and myself, and was initiated by him.
One day, he said to me, “So many of the old people with the knowledge are dying and there are not many younger people that want to learn the traditional ways.”
This led to a discussion about how to preserve the stories and he felt they should be written down. I was and am honoured that he chose me to work with him on this project.
Ray and I had several connections over the years and had worked on projects of his.
Even though he asked me and we discussed the project and agreed to work together, we respected and followed his traditional Plains Cree protocols.
I offered him the appropriate tobacco and a piece of cloth and he observed his protocols and prayed about sharing the knowledge outside the community to me and to the world.
Ray related the oral story to me several times, which I noted in draft form. And then I wrote the additional story around it in a way that the original oral story was self-contained in its entirety, and the rest was peripheral at the beginning and the end.
I continued to consult with Ray to make sure I had everything right and appropriately and respectfully portrayed, according to his Plains Cree traditions.
This took a bit of time, as I wanted to capture the tone and meanings accurately. I also did some research in understanding the terminology, the kinds of artifacts that were derived from bison, and to help me understand the cultural importance of the bison to all Plains People. I wanted to use a few Cree words in the peripheral story too and I had Ray tell these to me on subsequent visits.
Several times Ray told me the legend, adding more detail about each item that was made. I also did research on this as well, as I wanted to make sure the scope was covered and accurate. Once I began working with the illustrator, I also had to find photographs or images of each artifact so that they would be depicted accurately. Ray reviewed what I’d done and was pleased. I did some tweaking, and then sought a publisher for us.
Q: How did you meet Ray Lavallee?
A: Ray Lavallee and I have known each other for many years. I first contacted him about writing an article on his way of life as an Elder and Wisdom Keeper, and the teachings he was doing to bridge the cultural gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people. At his home on the Piapot First Nation, north of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, he held a cultural camp for visitors from different countries. He also travelled to many countries, like Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and Mexico, teaching and learning. He was a forerunner of his time, creating an awareness of Indigenous culture for anyone who wanted to learn.
Ray and I kept in touch over the years, and I participated in many sweat lodges and ceremonies as his guest. He took me on the occasional gathering trip for medicines or invited me to participate in traditional events.
He led a busy life as Native Traditional Consultant on Indian Religious Beliefs for the RCMP, and many other government agencies and community groups. He also practiced his Medicine skills, led people on Plant Walks, and held Cultural Camps on the Piapot First Nation, as well as leading Spiritual Ceremonies and Storytelling activities.
We feel truly special to have worked on this project together.
Ray Lavallee passed on April 1, 2016 but his memory and his legacy live on.