Traditional Storyteller & Knowledge Keeper
We will never stop learning, sharing and growing.
Ralph McBryan, LD-ACE graduate, is a Traditional Storyteller & Knowledge Keeper of Shuswap/Okanagan ancestry. Ralph has a wealth of experience storytelling in the community and has spoken at the Shuswap Elders Gathering. Ralph’s business, Captikwt, brings the distant past to life through stories and knowledge and is focused on creating a greater awareness between cultures to bridge a gap in the world today.
Ralph explains that Captikwt “has had a lot of contributors and supporters throughout his life’s journey.” Ralph describes that his contributors and supporters include Elders, Ancestors, long-lived pets and his wife, Peggy McBryan, also a graduate of the most recent LD-ACE Cohort. Ralph explains that his “little dog passed away the other day, and [he] was fortunate enough to be able to be there with him when he passed on. Animals are very miraculous beings; they’re not afraid to go out by themselves to go and be outside, unlike us people. We’re afraid of what lies beyond.”
As a Storyteller, Ralph explains that some of his stories “are lesson-based, some of them are territorial markers and some are just for entertainment value.” He further explains that his “Storytelling and Knowledge Keeping is a lifetime of knowledge gathering, and that is what [he’s] bringing to the table” with his business Captikwt.
Captikwt is the Okanagan word for stories and legends, and Ralph chose Captikwt “because it is the easier word to say than stseptékwll, which in Shuswap means the same thing.” Ralph describes that through founding Captikwt, he is passionate about bringing cultural sensitivity and awareness to current and future generations achieved through “bringing the distant past to life in you.” By bringing the distant past to others, Ralph is working bridge a gap between cultures. “Cultural ignorance cannot be tolerated any longer.”
Ralph explains that his uncle, whom he loved, “was taken away at a very young age to residential school, where he was subjected to many cruelties and denied basic human compassion. He was also deprived in many other ways compassion, love, things that help us all grow, and also alcoholism took its toll on my uncle. He turned to a limited life of crime. Part of what happened was, through cultural misunderstanding, things happened where he got into trouble with the law.”
“He ended up doing prison time but my people have a very hard time sustaining prolonged eye contact This is part of our cultural upbringing. The only time we really sustain eye contact is when we’re trying to assert our authority, challenging your word. One of the misconceptions is that it makes my people look shifty-eyed, untrustworthy, and some of us even imply we’re liars. This is what happened to my uncle,” Ralph explains.
“What if I explained a different story, and explained through cultural understanding, greater awareness that my uncle was being extremely, extremely respectful by not challenging your words, by not challenging your authority.”
Ralph explains, “[if] there was cultural understanding at the beginning, [then] that is what has to happen: cultural understanding.”
In addition to focusing on creating a greater awareness of cultural understanding through Storytelling, Ralph also describes that through Captikwt, he is working to fulfill a duty his family members have charged him with. “We all have historical knowledge that has been glossed over. My family members have charged my generation and the generations that were just ahead of me with the job of remembering.”
Some of this historical knowledge Ralph is charged with remembering is how as Sir Rogers traveled through the Rogers Pass, he was led by his guide who is Ralph’s ancestor. Ralph explains “being able to tell the story of how my people met Sir Rogers through the Rogers Pass and how we exited out into Eagle Valley along the Eagle Pass.”
That was my responsibility, to remember all of those events, to remember our legends.
“There was a day within their proceeding where my ancestor had to leave Sir Rogers behind and told them, ‘you have to stay right here so I can find you later,” Ralph explains. However, they wandered off and “it took an extra day for my ancestor to find them, take them back to the trail and lead them the rest of the way through,” Ralph describes. “That was my responsibility, to remember all of those events, to remember our legends.”
Through Captikwt, Ralph is focused on sharing his knowledge with others. Ralph describes that he is focused on concentrating “on young people and work within the professional world,” to build understanding. Ralph explains, “[h]ow valuable it is – the resource that is out there.” Ralph is also focused on working to support community members through Captikwt, as he “believe[s] that with the proper care and love, that [he] can facilitate or help to bring these people back to mainstream society if that’s what they want.”
Ralph plans to travel to communities to share his knowledge and also interview other Storytellers and Knowledge Keepers as he works to build a resource book of available Storytellers and Knowledge Keepers available to members of the community and work to create archives to preserve knowledge from Storytellers and Knowledge Keepers.
Ralph explains that he believes “in the integrity of our knowledge and the telling of our stories.” He describes that he “will never stop learning, sharing and growing.” We at ACE are excited to see what the future holds for Captikwt and are grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from Ralph during his entrepreneurial journey.
Ralph McBryan is a graduate of the ACE Program, which focuses on bridging Aboriginal Culture with key elements of entrepreneurship and business creation. The ACE Program is made possible through the collective efforts of our partnering regions, communities, institutions and faculties.