Friday, October 20, 2017

Community and Healing with the Library

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I’ve said this before…

Academic libraries are not just about books and research: they’re also about building communities. Oftentimes building a community is about positive relationships and helping people find the tools that they need to succeed.

Sometimes though, the best thing a library can do for a community is give them space to use the tools they already have.

Nantâwihiwêwin: Doctoring; healing day after day for a long time is a project that straddles this line, supporting those who participate to share their own stories, and turn our spaces into their own.

Started by Ambroise Cardinal-Dubitski, an Indigenous student specializing in Kinesiology, explains that Nantâwihiwêwin is:

“a zine that is meant to act as a tool for achieving the highest form of ‘decolonization’ which is to be healthy, resilient and Indigenous, especially while traversing the adversities of institutional learning and living.
[…] Words of empowerment, art, and poetry are on every page to aid the process of healing our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves. Each page is taken as a reminder of our strength, love, and connection to the world as Indigenous Peoples, but also as a challenge. The challenge of healing in a world filled with racism, aggression, and harm towards Indigenous Peoples and people of colour.”

Hearing those words, my first instinct was to help.

Helping is the library way, after all. But how do staff, faculty, and members of an institution help when what students want is to empower, and speak for themselves?

My answer is to offer space, support, and a platform for outreach.

Living in a city with many universities and colleges, there are a lot of Indigenous students receiving an education. This meant that the project needed to extend beyond our University.

So, it has!

Currently, we are engaging students from the University of Alberta and Yellowhead Tribal College, and the hope is to extend the project to Grant MacEwan and other institutions. The Greater Edmonton Library Association (GELA) has also jumped on board: the association is currently working the Remand Centre to bring creative writing workshops to incarcerated peoples.

Nantâwihiwêwin was well received and created a special healing environment for everyone involved.

It leaves us with open hearts and open minds towards the notion of reclamation and healing as a community. If you or anyone you know may be interested in participating, the University of Alberta Libraries is hosting a Zine Making Workshop on October 25, at 2:30pm in the Kiva Room.

If you are unable to make it, you can always create a submission and bring it to HT Coutts Education and Physical Education Library. Otherwise, we look forward to distributing the final zine to everyone in our community.

Kinanâskomitin. “I am grateful to you”.
Nantâwihiwêwin is a call to action as well as a gentle reminder, a reminder and invitation to the support and connection you have on your journey both internally, externally, spiritually, and physically.”

– Ambrose Cardinal-Dubitski

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