Joseph Naytowhow


Joseph is a songwriter and a storyteller. He creates and recites both traditional and contemporary first nations stories. He is creatively inspired by sacred stories and life experiences. Most of his work is unplanned. He is a very playful man and had us mimic deer horns to clear out our feelings. It seemed silly so the audience laughed. He even made jokes about the Cree tradition: wherever you die, you get buried. He commented “I hope I don’t die in a dumpster or at McDonald’s”. He would engage listeners through his bubbly personality.

Whenever he thinks about a topic he takes chances and risks. He creates songs about when people pass on to the afterlife. Joseph always includes the deceased in songs and dances. He says that when you are singing a song, ancestors come to meet people. A powerful quote from Joseph is “The soul knows more than the mind knows.”

Sometimes people don’t know what he’s saying in his songs because of the loss of culture and language. He says “it’s gonna be difficult in the future.” However, when you lose your language it dies for a while, but comes back eventually. He thinks that it’s beautiful when someone speaks to you in their language but you still utter your language and have a conversation. No one understands each other but they are having fun.

He told us a story using the audience as actors. His story was about a feud between the Blackfoot first nations and Cree in the 1600’s. The Cree warrior attempts to steal a horse and escapes. A Blackfoot warrior chases the Cree warrior but fails to kill him.

Joseph says “Cree people don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are always waiting for opportunities to teach or joke. It’s in our blood to have fun.

His session ended with a round dance. His personality and inclusion of audience made the session fun. I really enjoyed listening to his stories while he played music and acted. His way of storytelling is both entertaining and impactful since he includes serious topics and adds elements of humor into them. He created a universe where his audiences could interact with his story and become part of it.


At the “Think Indigenous Conference” I had the opportunity to listen Joseph Naytowhow. Joseph is a song writer, story teller, and a voice actor. The biggest take away I got out of this talk was the importance of storytelling. Joseph had a voice that could calm a raging bull; he had a way of weaving a story in his native language and being able to smoothly translate it. He also managed to crack a few jokes here and there.

Joseph told a story about the history of the Cree and the Blackfoot, and described a time when they showed off their skills as warriors. Warriors went back and forth showing off their skills as bowmen, nearly hitting each other and stating “I could’ve killed you right there”. At the end of the day, no one died and rather it was a battle of skill. The story was told because a member from the Blackfoot community shared Tobacco with him signifying we may have been separated in the past, but today we reconcile and move on from the past. Sharing an example of how the times have changed.

The story incorporated war shouts that the warriors made as they charged into battle. Then shared that when listening to stories, audience members can make the same sounds can be made if you enjoy hearing something you heard. Joseph got us to repeat the same sounds. It was an interesting experience since they are sounds I’ve never had to make before. The shouting was a way to see the engagement of the crowd and people who participated were on the path to learn about Indigenous culture, and help be part of the solution. However, it also revealed those who did not care and will be the future of the problem.

Additionally, he played us a song on a flute from a Cherokee Nation. While playing a welcome song, he turned it into “ba ba black sheep”, and had a good laugh. Joseph has a contagious chuckle. To end off the speech we had a circle dance, it was a great way to see the amount the audience wanted to learn. It was clear that some people did not want to learn. Reconciliation begins with knowing each other’s stories, Joseph uses storytelling as a platform to do his part of reconciliation. It was a honor to listen to his talk and learn through storytelling, he talked in a light manner and with a lot of hope for the future. His translation of reconciliation is “Good place and good relationship”. Living in a place where everyone respects each other is the goal of reconciliation.



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