Sunday, March 3, 2024
March 3, 2024

Library opens Indigenous Learning Area

Salt Spring’s public library now has an area dedicated specifically for Indigenous learning, filled with beautiful artworks, furniture and books created by Indigenous artists and authors.

The ITOTELNEW̱ HÁUTW̱ / Tatul’ utew’t-hw Indigenous Learning Area was opened with a ceremony on Sunday afternoon, acknowledging everyone who contributed in some way to the project.

“It’s for Indigenous people, especially the 150 Indigenous youth in our school system, to come here and know that they have a place to be,” explained library director Karen Hudson at the event. “Not only will they see this decolonized collection that we’ve created, but their families can feel they can safely come and see this art and be inspired in whatever they want to do in their lives.”

She said creating the area is part of the library’s ongoing response to the calls for action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report of 2015. Other initiatives include the Indigenous mural created by young artists on the outside of the library, hosting an Indigenous reading group for the past four years and more recently a friendship circle, and establishing an Indigenous coordinator position.

Caroline Dick has been in that role since September of 2023. Under her guidance, the new area will be home to language learning and other programs, including Indigenous story times for kids.

Dick said she went to school on Salt Spring and at the time it was disturbing to hear the false but then prevailing narrative about Indigenous people not living in the Gulf Islands except for some occasional clam harvesting visits.

“Coming back and being able to be a part of this has been such a healing experience for me, and to be a part of what is really a healing experience for so many different communities and different people has been such a singular honour,” she said.

“We’re just so grateful and cognizant of the fact that the grace that is extended to us by the Indigenous peoples and the communities around here, and the people that are from here — these are your homelands that were taken — that you are willing to come back and be here with us in these healing moments is amazing and wonderful.”

Rose Spahan of the Tsartlip Nation, who curated the artwork collection, introduced attending artists and credited elders for helping her with protocol language and helping things work together in a good way.

Pieces now part of the library’s permanent collection were created by James Jimmy (W̱SÁNEĆ), Maynard Johnny Jr. (Penelakut / Kwakwaka’wakw), Myrna Crossley (W̱SÁNEĆ), TEMOSEṈ / Chazz Elliott (W̱ SÁNEĆ), the late TEMOSEṈŦET / Charles Elliott (W̱SÁNEĆ) and Statu Stsuhwum / Angela Marston (Stzuminus).

W̱SÁNEĆ elder J’SINTEN (Dr. John Elliott) explained at Sunday’s ceremony that “ITOTELNEW̱ HÁUTW̱” means “place of learning” in the SENĆOŦEN language. “Tatul’ utew’t-hw” is the Hul’qumi’num term for “house of learning.” J’SINTEN also shared a W̱SÁNEĆ creation story about the first deer being created from a boy in Hwu’ne’nuts (Fulford Harbour), and a song that urges taking care of our natural places.

Sunday’s events also included delicious bannock and other foods served by Adrienne Peter of Hungry Bubbas, preceded by songs and a talk from her father and Quw’utsun knowledge keeper Bubba Qwulshemut.

Funds for the ITOTELNEW̱ HÁUTW̱ / Tatul’ utew’t-hw Indigenous Learning Area were provided by the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the Salt Spring Island Foundation, the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation and Salt Spring Island Public Library donors.

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