A Glimpse at Indigenization at Calgary Public Library

Calgary Public Library welcomed its first Indigenous Service Design Lead, Teneya Gwin, in 2017. This new role focuses on Indigenous engagement so that Library programming can be designed around community needs.

Community engagement, inclusivity, and relationship building are at the core of Gwin’s approach. She is working to build sustained relationships with Calgary’s urban Indigenous population and surrounding communities.

“For the last 150 years, Indigenous people have felt invisible. Through government policy, there was a mandate and attempt to try and eliminate Indigenous culture and race,” Gwin says.

“It’s important that we are acknowledging this nasty part of history and educating those that don’t know, but also moving forward in a positive way, which is guided by the community.”

Gwin’s work is part of the Library’s commitment to Indigenization. Since joining the Library, Gwin has kickstarted a range of projects to create opportunities for Indigenous programming and partnership, such as:

  • Relationship building with urban Indigenous communities and Tsuut’ina Nation, and launching outreach into the community through the Book Truck and The Library Goes to Kindergarten programs.
  • Exploring and introducing models for Indigenous cultural awareness training for Calgary Public Library staff.
  • Looking at ways to integrate Indigenous worldviews, including traditional cultures and languages, into existing programs.

Partnership is critical to the Library’s approach to Indigenization. Gwin has built many new partnerships, leading the Library to host events, exhibits, and programs including:

  • Igniting the Fire, an adult Indigenous literacy program
  • Indigenous drumming circles with Cree8
  • GlobalFest Human Rights Forum 2017, a lecture series exploring Indigenous Rights
  • Humainologie film exhibit under an umbrella we met: Indigenous Youth
  • Family Storytelling: Grandmother Turtle offered in partnership with Awo Taan Healing Lodge
  • Drop-In Storytime with Shirley Hill, who has over 35 years’ experience teaching Indigenous culture and tradition to children and youth
  • Creation Lodge, a community-run program focused on Indigenous creation stories

“Calgary Public Library, an institution for learning and resources, is a perfect place to start these conversations. Although it’s very challenging, because change is not easy, it’s also very rewarding,” Gwin says.

This is just the beginning of Calgary Public Library’s journey. For opportunities to partner and collaborate, or to share ideas and suggestions, please contact Teneya Gwin by email or at 403.221.2073.

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