Nanaimo author Celestine Aleck shares stories about Snuneymuxw culture and history during the Vancouver Island Children’s Book Festival. RACHEL STERN / The News Bulletin

Nanaimo First Nation author Celestine Aleck shares stories during book fest

Book fest is Saturday (May 6)

Nanaimo author Celestine Aleck remembers sitting at her grandfather’s feet as he told stories.

Stories were more than tales shared at bedtime, they were an integral part of the Coast Salish culture.

Her grandfather, Ronald Aleck, told stories in a loving way, said Aleck, but at the end he would yell “you remember” in a loud voice. Remembering the story exactly was important. Forgetting just one word could change the story’s context and its importance as a record of history, said Aleck.

Besides her grandfather, Aleck also learned from her grandmother.

“These elders left so many stories behind of our history, our territory and where we used to fish and hunt … and that’s what my grandfather used to talk about, too,” said Aleck.

Stories have continuously been a part of her life.

“It was just always who we were as a people. We were little sitting on the floor, listening to stories as our parents sat at the chairs at the table or in the living room or wherever grandma was or grandpa was. I think it was just such a loving way to teach us. We are so fortunate to have our elders that taught us,” said Aleck. “Everything, like even in our culture, even to this day our grandparents will take the first grandchild that is born and raise them up with all our teachings. They are so lucky to have that opportunity.”

Aleck used to work as a carver and at Newscastle Island as a First Nations interpreter. Aleck wrote a set of Coast Salish Strong Stories, including The Cedar Tree: The Heart of Our People; The Great Blanket of Moss; The Sun and the Moon and others. Her books were published by Strong Nations, a Nanaimo publishing company.

“I wanted to find the right publisher for the books, because of the way I wanted to have it done was in cartoon with native art,” she said.

Aleck is one of nine authors presenting at the Vancouver Island Children’s Book Festival. She said events such as the book festival help with children’s imaginations.

“Reading is so important. Storytelling that is a part of who we are as a nation. We have always been storytellers always handed down history. I always believe in telling stories,” said Aleck.

The 31st annual Vancouver Island Children’s Book Festival is Saturday (May 6). Events kick off at 9:15 a.m. with a free family yoga session held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre.

A free teen session with Richard Van Camp, who creates comics, graphic novels and children’s books, will be held from 10:15 a.m. to noon at the conference centre at the Newcastle lobby.

The author sessions are 10:15-11 a.m., 11:15 a.m. to noon and 1:30-2:15 p.m. The sessions are held at the Harbourfront Library and conference centre. The autograph session is from 2:15-3 p.m.

A lunch event is being held from noon to 1:15 p.m. at Diana Krall Plaza. People can bring their lunch or purchase items and listen to entertainment by Fiddelium and enjoy Camp Narnia activities.

For a full list of authors, locations and times, please visit

A book market by Literacy Central Vancouver Island will open in Diana Krall Plaza at 9:30 a.m.

Tickets are $10 for a festival day pass, a child accompanied by an adult, or $25 for a family pass for an adult and three or more children. Single session tickets are $5. A lone adult for three sessions is $10. Tickets are available by calling 250-754-8550 or by visiting or people can purchase tickets at the booth, which opens at 8:30 a.m., at Diana Krall Plaza the day of the event. Advance purchase guarantees first choice for specific sessions.

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