Resources - Teachers' Guide : Lesson Five



Lesson 5: Stories and Songs


Dane-zaa have preserved our traditional stories and songs for many generations. Dane-zaa elders are expert storytellers and enjoy telling stories to people of all ages. Dane-zaa traditional stories are intended both to entertain and to teach about our traditional values and how to survive in the bush. They also provide Dane-zaa with ways to think about the impact of oil and gas industrialization on our traditional lands. Go to About Dane-zaa Stories to find out more about our traditional Dane-zaa storytelling traditions.

Dane-zaa traditional songs have also been preserved for hundreds of years and are a vital part of our contemporary Dane-zaa oral traditions. There are two types of Dane-zaa songs. Mayiné are personal medicine songs that we are given on vision quests by our spirit helpers. These songs are private and rarely sung in public. None of these personal songs can be found on our website. Nááchę yiné are songs that are brought back from Heaven by our Dane-zaa Dreamers. These songs may tell the future or contain messages from God and our ancestors in Heaven to be shared with our people. These songs are meant to be performed in public. Songkeepers, like our Doig River Drummers, keep these songs alive by performing them at our Dreamers' Dances and at community gatherings. Go to About Dane-zaa Songs to find out more about our Dane-zaa traditional singing.


Lesson 5A: Elementary

Core Concepts

  • Aboriginal cultures pass knowledge from generation to generation through oral traditions.
  • Storytelling is an important activity in Aboriginal cultures.
  • Participation in Aboriginal storytelling and other group activities requires effective and responsible listening skills.
  • There are many forms of traditional Aboriginal music.
  • Stories and songs are an important part of Dane-zaa oral traditions and we Dane-zaa have maintained our stories and songs for many generations.


Activity One: Storytelling

Oral traditions are traditions that are handed down through listening, speaking, and singing. Elders, such as our Dane-zaa elders, tell stories or sing songs, and young people must listen carefully until they can remember the story or song. That's because, in the past, many Aboriginal people, including Dane-zaa, didn't have a written language. Master storytellers might know enough stories to be able to tell stories all night long without repeating themselves. It takes highly developed listening skills and a strong intellect to remember so many stories and songs. Do you think you could do that? The next activity will give you a chance to test your listening skills.

The Telephone Game

  • Your class should sit in a circle on the floor.
  • Each student should sit about an arm's length away from the next student.
  • The teacher, or a chosen student, can begin the exercise by whispering a short message or a part of a story or poem, into the ear of the first student. Make sure that only the student you are speaking to can hear what you are saying. Then the next student whispers what he or she thought they heard into the ear of the next student. The last student to receive the message should stand up and tell it to the rest of the group. Then compare what the last student heard to what the first student, or teacher, said at the beginning. This exercise will only work if each person does their best to pass on the message they hear. If they make up their own message or add things on purpose to confuse the message, then it won't be a true test of your class's listening skills.

How did you do? Learning stories takes patience and keen listening skills. Now, go to About Dane-zaa Stories and listen to Dane-zaa elder Sam Acko tell a story about our culture hero, Tsááyaa, and Mosquito Man. You can also download the transcript [PDF] of the story so that you can read it at your own pace. Then fill out Worksheet A below.

Worksheet A

  1. What happens in the story? Retell the story, briefly, in your own words and draw a picture to illustrate the story.

  2. How do you think Sam Acko learned this story? He gives you some clues at the beginning of the story.

  3. Tsááyaa is not only a culture hero, he is also what is known as a Trickster. Tricksters, such as Raven and Coyote, are common figures in traditional Aboriginal stories who are both powerful, yet prone to playing "tricks" on other characters in stories, and so are called "tricksters." How does Tsááyaa behave like a Trickster in this story?

Activity Two: Dane-zaa Songs

Read through the page, following the links. Listen to the two different drum beats used in our Dane-zaa Dreamers' songs. You can gently sound out the beat on a table, chair, or even your legs. Then follow the link to Dane-zaa Songs and choose a song to listen to. As you listen, fill out Worksheet B below.

Worksheet B

  1. What song did you choose? If it has a name, write it here.

  2. Which of our Dane-zaa Dreamers received this song? If the text indicates when and where the song was dreamed, write this here.

  3. When was this song performed? By whom?

  4. What type of rhythmic pattern (beat) does the song have?

  5. Are there any other special things about this song?

  6. How do you think that Dane-zaa Dreamers' songs are different from those you have heard before? How are they the same?

Enrichment Activity

  1. Attend a local storytelling event or invite a local storyteller to your classroom. Afterwards, discuss your favourite stories.
  2. Listen to more Aboriginal music. There are many Aboriginal and Indigenous artists who have recorded CDs, both in Canada and around the world. Listen to one or more CDs in your class or set up a listening centre, so that you can listen to music between other activities. A few suggestions are listed below. After you have listened to some of this—or other—music, discuss how it is similar to our Dane-zaa traditional music. How is it different?
    • Jerry Alfred. Etsi Shon. (A Yukon First Nations musician, Alfred won the Juno Award for this CD and most of the songs on it are in Northern Tutchone, a language related to our Dane-zaa language.)
    • Putamayo presents: A Native American Odyssey (Inuit to Inca)
    • Heartbeat: Voices of First Nations Women


Lesson 5B: High School

Core Concepts:

  • Aboriginal storytelling has social and cultural functions.
  • Aboriginal storytelling has a strong influence on contemporary Aboriginal (Indigenous) literature, art, and film.
  • Traditional Aboriginal music has a distinct influence on contemporary Aboriginal music.
  • Stories and songs are an important part of our Dane-zaa oral traditions.
  • Dane-zaa have maintained our stories and songs for many generations and our Dane-zaa elders share stories with youth today, and youth also carry on Dane-zaa oral traditions as members of groups like the Doig River Drummers. Our stories and songs provide guidance for our people as we face the challenges of the present, and the future, and help us maintain a strong sense of our Dane-zaa culture.


Storytelling is an important part of our Dane-zaa culture. Go to Collection of Stories and listen to Dane-zaa elder, Sam Acko, tell the story of "The Man Who Turned Into a Moose." Then fill out the worksheet below.


  1. In which season does this story take place?

  2. Where does the story take place and why was this place so important to our Dane-zaa ancestors in the past?

  3. What happens when our Dane-zaa ancestors try to snare the moose at Snare Hill?

  4. How do the hunters know that the young man has turned into a moose?

  5. How does the Man Who Turned Into a Moose help the moose to escape from the snares?

  6. What did you learn from this story about our traditional Dane-zaa way of life and about our beliefs about animals and their interactions with humans?

Dane-zaa Songs

Songs are also a very important part of our Dane-zaa culture. Go to About Dane-zaa Songs and learn more about our Dane-zaa traditional music. Next, go to Song Collection and listen to as many songs as you have time for. Choose one and fill out the worksheet below.

Songs Worksheet

  1. Who performs the song?

  2. Which of our Dane-zaa Dreamers first received (dreamed) this song?

  3. Where does the performance take place? When?

  4. If the song was sung at a particular Dreamers' Dance, why was that dance held?

  5. What role does traditional music play in our Dane-zaa culture? How is music important in your own life, family, or community?

Enrichment Activities

Host an Aboriginal Film Festival

Storytelling has influenced contemporary Aboriginal artists, writers, and filmmakers. Recent films, such as Atarnajuat: The Fast Runner, Smoke Signals, and Rabbit Proof Fence, have all been influenced by traditional storytelling traditions. "Screen" one, or more, of these films in your classroom. You might want to invite people from other classes or hold the "festival" in your school's gym or auditorium.

Afterwards, read an interview with the director of Atarnajuat, an interview with Sherman Alexie, screenwriter of Smoke Signals, or an interview with Phillip Noyce, director of Rabbit Proof Fence to find out more about the making of these movies.

  1. How were these films influenced by storytelling?
  2. Can you see similarities between these films and stories told by our Dane-zaa elders? (You might want to return to Collection of Dane-zaa Stories and listen to more of our Dane-zaa elders telling stories, before you conclude your discussion.)
Create a PowerPoint Presentation about an Aboriginal Musician

Contemporary Aboriginal and Indigenous musicians are often influenced by traditional Aboriginal Music, such as our Dane-zaa singing. Working in a team, find out more about a contemporary Aboriginal (or Indigenous) musician or group and create a PowerPoint presentation to share what you learned. You can also do an oral report. Bring a portable CD or MP3 player so you can share the music you've discovered with your class. Below are a few websites to get you started.


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