A new year is full of good intentions: we want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, be better people, lean towards that bright future. The Library is no different.
As we look forward to a year in which we celebrate the Nelson Public Library’s centenary, we’re moving forward in other ways. Enter the library as Democratic Convener, in which we take one tiny step in the long path towards Truth and Reconciliation, and a better understanding of what it means to be Indigenous in Canada. And in doing so, we bring you along with us.
This is a step beyond a library’s fundamental egalitarian nature in offering a place where all are welcome and treated with respect. In our role as a Democratic Convener, we’re aiming for something more, with a collaborative initiative supported by a grant through the BC Libraries Co-op in collaboration with Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, which is appropriate: informed dialogue is what this initiative is all about. Read on!
A Lawmatters grant allowed us to purchase a number of copies of an important book. Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Issues in Canada, by accomplished Métis scholar and educator Chelsea Vowel, is a wonderful, highly readable textbook laced with honesty and humour. We will soon have a copy available in our library collection.
It begins in schools, with a program called From the Heart: Youth Futures — Truth, Resurgence, and Reconciliation, a national project that brings together youth and community to create an environment for learning and discovery about the lived experience of Indigenous peoples.
Andrea Mann, aboriginal education academic success teacher at Brent Kennedy and Mount Sentinel schools, has launched a local chapter. The students will translate what they learn through engagement with Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers, and others into a play to be publicly performed in the spring.
That it’s a youth-led project bodes well; as adults, we’re good at lip service but not always so good at fully embracing the hard truths. There’s baggage in the way. Young people are perfectly poised to enquire, question, and learn with open hearts — and then tell us about it.
The library is asking for folks inspired by that play to join us. The subsequent focus group will meet regularly to read and discuss Indigenous Writes, and from there be part of a book club that will explore fiction and nonfiction by Indigenous authors. We’ll read from a new base of understanding of our collective history and the issues faced by Indigenous peoples in this country we all call home. More on this opportunity in the coming months.
Participants will act as spokes in a wheel, with a responsibility to take their experience and knowledge outward into the community. It’s by talking with one another, after all, that real, grassroots change happens.
There are so many ways for non-Indigenous people to be involved in the reconciliation process: seeing the play is a start. Read books about the lived experience of Indigenous peoples past and present, from biographies to essays to fiction. Find a blanket exercise happening near you; attend a presentation or see a film. Watch APTN or check out the Indigenous news section at CBC online. Read the Truth and Reconciliation report.
Most of all, talk to other people — from the heart — and broaden the dialogue.
It’s a complicated world, and there’s no doubt that we live in difficult times. As we head into the third decade of this 21st century, I find myself heartened by that higher human desire to be better, and to make things better for others — at the start of a new year, and in all times and all places.
Anne DeGrace is the adult services co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week.