Rabbit and Bear Paws tour northwest
Rick Garrick — Wawatay News
First Nation puppets, accompanied by lots of laughter, were on stage during a recent Rabbit and Bear Paws tour through northwestern Ontario and Manitoba.
“Yesterday I was in Big Grassy doing two different puppet shows for them there,” said Chad Solomon, creator of Rabbit and Bear Paws and a Henvey Inlet band member, after a Nov. 7 performance at Ecole Gron Morgan in Thunder Bay. “Before I set up for the powwow in Winnipeg, I was at two different schools, one in East Selkirk and one in Grand Beach.”
Solomon usually does a number of puppet performances during his tours, including a retelling of the Anishinabe creation story featuring his Nanabazhoo and the Animals puppets and an anti-bullying program featuring his Rabbit and Bear Paws puppets.
“I get the kids themselves to do improv puppeteering to act out that example of when they had seen someone getting bullied,” Solomon said, noting he usually asks two students from the audience to portray the bully and bullied using his puppets. “And the improvisation of that storytelling is where the humour really comes in.”
While the students are usually nervous at first to perform with the puppet, Solomon said they are also excited about using the puppets.
“As a kid, my parents always got me the tools to be able to use to become the artist and puppeteer I am today,” Solomon said. “I find it is very important for people to have hands-on experience with the tools themselves to fully learn about the art form and about the issues of bullying.”
Solomon delivered his puppet shows at six elementary schools during a Nov. 7-8 tour in Thunder Bay, including the anti-bullying puppet show he performed at Ecole Gron Morgan.
“I developed the program on anti-bullying that uses the sharing circles and another traditional tool, the talking stick, for kids to work at the issue of bullying using humour and puppetry,” Solomon said.
Ecole Gron Morgan vice principal Darren Lentz said the puppet show was a “great opportunity for kids” to see a different venue for talking about culture, traditions and bullying.
“Bullying is a serious issue,” Lentz said. “We don’t want to see it in schools, we don’t want to see it in our life and (Solomon) has a unique way to present that to kids, a different way than they’ve seen before, with puppets, which is really cool.”
Lentz was impressed with the way Solomon presented the idea that not all bullies are bigger than their victims by having a student perform with the smaller Rabbit puppet as a bully against another student with the larger Bear Paws puppet.
“I love how he interacts with the kids and gets them working together with him,” Lentz said. “It’s not just them sitting there and being inactive. I think that’s important, especially for elementary students.”
Solomon credited his family, including his grandfather, Elder Art Solomon, for providing a strong influence in his work.
“My grandparents, my mishomis and my nokomis, gave me a lot of great understanding as a kid of how to live a healthy and positive lifestyle,” Solomon said. “It is because of their teachings and of my family that inspired me to do the work that I do today with the audiences of various ages.”
Solomon’s work is available at www.rabbitandbearpaws.com.
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