Kung Jaadee (Roberta Kennedy) is a Haida singer, storyteller, and drummer. She has performed for hundreds of audiences across Canada and parts of the United States for nearly twenty years at festivals, schools, museums, aboriginal celebrations, and conferences.
She is originally from Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, B.C.) and has most recently lived in Yellowknife, NWT and Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she served as Storyteller-in-Residence at the University of Manitoba Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture. She has worked as a primary school teacher and now performs stories and songs full time.
Kung Jaadee loves dancing, singing, drumming, laughing, eating and she is a true Raven causing mischief wherever she goes in this world. Her stories tell of a time when the animals taught us how to be true haada laas (good people). They were our sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers. We understood them because they already knew the secrets of life.
She prefers to be known by her true Haida name, Kung Jaadee, Woman in the Moon, the personal crest she wears on her button blanket. She was formerly called Kwii-Ge-Ii-Wans, or Big Loved Cloud, her maternal grandmother's name, but she has now passed that name on to her daughter.
I came to be a storyteller to become a positive example to my children. I grew up ashamed of who I was, and I remained so until my first born child attended Kindergarten (14 years ago). When he walked through the doors of his school I remembered my first day of school and how I was taunted and teased about who I was as a Haida. These other 5 year olds yelled out all the stereotypes that exist for my people. It was their school, an Armed Forces School, and there were more of them, than us Haida students (of which there were two of us-the other was my cousin). I believed what they said. To save myself from further shame, I climbed into a shell of shame and silence my whole life-that is, until my son started school.
I gathered as much strength as I could to sit in front of his class to share a bit of myself, and in essence of my son, too. I brought my button robe into my son's classroom and shyly told my first story of what it means to be a Haida. I told about how I received my button robe, how long it took my great-grandmother to make it for me; and how it was given to me at my high school graduation. All the students in my son's class looked at him and and told him, “You are so lucky!” I noticed my little son sitting a little taller.
Ever since that day I have been determined to share these stories and more about who I am as a Haida. I originally only wanted my children to learn about who we are as Haida. I wanted them to be proud of who they are. Now I really want the world to know about us. I want to debunk any stereotypes that still exist because I know they do. I like to carry the history of my people with me not as a reminder of shame to some, but as an example that we all have history, culture, stories, songs, dances, food and language to share with one another. But are we willing to truly listen to each other? Because if we do, we'll find something special in ourselves, something that might bring us together, when we realize we're not very different from each other. We'll never be completely the same, but that is okay otherwise life could get boring! What happened to my little boy? He grew into a fine young man, who is proud of who is today. He has a keen interest in learning about our history in his studies at college. I am full of joy when I think back to this choice I made not to say to myself that someone else can do this work. I know as a parent we are our children's first teachers. It's still important for me to set the example and this I realize I will always do, because if I'm very lucky, one day I'll be that example to my grandchildren.
I tell stories at storytelling festivals, music festivals, conferences, in libraries, museums, at universities, colleges, for various organizations, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Pharmaceutical Women's Association, Native Women's Organization, Business Women's organization, The Storytellers of Canada/Conteurs du Canada, Canada Council. I also tell stories in schools with students of all ages and for the general public. I have told stories on National Aboriginal Day, as well as on other special days like International Women's Week, Earth Week, special multicultural days.
I tell stories for audiences of all ages. Children will enjoy them, but adults will appreciate them.
When I tell stories I try to include my audiences as much as possible, by teaching simple Haida words and if time permits a song and a dance.
My dream is to tell stories full-time. I work as a teacher half-time and I do love my job, but my first passion is storytelling. I would like to visit all of our provinces and territories. I only have 5 places left to go! I do love my country as it is beautiful everywhere and I will be happy to spend my life visiting as many communities as I can to anyone who wishes to listen.
Eventually I will like to travel to other countries telling my stories and sharing about my culture. I also like learning about other people and their traditions, so maybe one day I'll get to do more of that when my children are grown. I do travel occasionally as my job permits some time off. I also have summers to tell stories as well as a two week spring break. If known well in advance I can book time to attend at other times of the year.
Thank you in my language is Haaw7'a! (How-aa)