Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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For many years, Glenna Cardinal traveled to her nearest Calgary Public Library to sign herself and her family up for their free Library memberships. Each year they came, they were told that they were not eligible for a free card, as they live outside of Calgary city limits on the Tsuut’ina Nation. Cardinal wrote letters of concern and contacted many people, but no changes were made.
“At the time, free public library membership was still unavailable to Indigenous peoples living outside Calgary, unless they paid the non-resident fee, which was over a hundred dollars,” explains Mark Asberg, Calgary Public Library CEO. “This situation amounted to a fundamental institutional unfairness, in that Indigenous communities across Alberta have not had access to the free public library services available to others in almost all municipalities across the province.”
Cardinal resigned herself to paying the non-resident fee in 2016, but when she went to purchase her Library membership, she was pleased to find the situation had changed. In 2016, the Government of Alberta provided libraries with funding to support free membership for Indigenous communities in their surrounding areas. When Cardinal heard about the initiative, she was keen to work with the Library to memorialize the journey to making this change, which took 104 years to implement – from 1912 to 2016.
Cardinal approached the Library about working on a project to create Library cards that celebrated Indigenous women. The women featured on the cards are members of Glenna’s ancestry. These cards create a direct and tactile connection between Indigenous communities and the Library, and will inspire Library members from other communities to ask questions and learn more about Indigenous communities in Treaty 7.
These new cards mark a more inclusive period of Library service in Calgary and point to an opportunity for us to work together on ensuring we all have access to life-enriching public library resources, services, and connections.
Available at all Library locations as of December 4, 2019, these limited-edition Library cards are available to new and existing Library members. The cards feature photographs of Winnie Bull (nee Crowchild) and her baby daughter Elsie Bull (Jacobs), who are Glenna’s great grandmother and grandmother.
Ask a staff member at your Library about switching your card to this new design at no cost.
Glenna Cardinal grew up with one foot in the City of Calgary and the other on the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve. Her art practice is heavily influenced by the loss of her childhood home to the construction of the South West Calgary Ring Road. As a contemporary artist, she deconstructs the reserve reality that patriarchy and colonialism have created in her community. Cardinal’s work revives the matriarchal voices of her Tsuut’ina grandmothers.
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