Elder in Residence

The Edmonton Public Library’s Elder in Residence Program (EIR) provides access to an Indigenous Elder for EPL customers. The Elder in Residence hosts weekly classes and programs centred on Indigenous knowledge and work to ensure that ceremony is an active part of our library system. Through classes, events and ceremonies, we bring together people from all backgrounds to learn about Indigenous culture, protocol and processes.

EIR - Contents

About the Elder in Residence

Nôhkom Jo-Ann Saddleback

Jo-Ann Saddleback is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree First Nation. Her husband, Jerry Saddleback, is from the Samson Cree Nation and they have 11 children between them. Jo-Ann worked as a Policy Analyst/Researcher for various organizations and Executive Director for Metis Settlements General Council heading up Legal and Governmental Affairs. She also spent 30 years as a community developer, travelling across Canada developing and delivering workshops for RCMP, Corrections Canada, Alberta Health and Alberta Justice. As part of this work, she visited Old People in First Nations and Metis communities. They initiated her to ceremonies and evaluated the teachings she shares in communities. Jo-Ann remains grateful they entrust her to continue work sharing their wisdom.

Jo-Ann has participated in a number of special projects over the years, including:

  • serving as Cultural Advisor for Truth & Reconciliation Commission when in Edmonton
  • teaching Cree Studies 101 and 121 at Maskwacîs Cultural College
  • working with the Elders’ Cree Language Committee drafting the Cree Language Declaration for the four bands of Maskwacîs
  • conducting cultural camps for school teachers, social workers and provincial court judges.
  • sitting on the Wisdom Council of Thunderbird Partnerships and Working Committee
  • consulting on various building projects, alongside her husband, Jerry Saddleback, including the renovation of Wanuskewin Heritage Park and the Edmonton Public Library Thunderbird House

She is a frequent guest speaker at conferences and works as an Elder for other groups including Alberta Justice, City of Edmonton, Edmonton 2 Spirit Society, the University of Saskatchewan Project on addictions and Canadian Research Initiative on Substance Misuse (CRISM).

In her other life, Jo-Ann is an Elder Artist, writer, and designer at her Store Câhcacêp Art and Tea House, recently closed and now manages Câhcacêp BowsArt with her husband. Together they travel throughout Treaty 6 territory when invited to share the History of Creation Story.

Have questions about EIR?

Nôhkom Jo-Ann works out of PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN in the Stanley A. Milner Library. Sharing her knowledge, Nôhkom is helping guide the work of our staff, leading classes and ceremonies, and connecting with community members. She hosts open drop-in visiting hours in PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN. The times for these visiting sessions can be found here. If you are coming to ask questions about culture or ceremony, you are asked to bring protocol, which includes tobacco. If you cannot make any of these times or have further questions about protocol or the Elder-in-Residence Program, we ask you to request a meeting and staff will be able to guide you.

Meet Nôhkom Jo-Ann


2022 Elder-in-Residence Programming

Previous Work with EPL

Elder Jo-Ann and her husband, Jerry Saddleback, have a longstanding relationship with the Library. They were instrumental in the design of PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN (Thunderbird House), the Indigenous gathering space at the Milner Library. In particular, Elder Jo-Ann provided support on its design in accordance with nehiyaw (Cree) philosophies. She and her husband gifted the name to the space in a Pipe ceremony in August 2020.

EIR - Thunderbird House

PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN | Thunderbird House

PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN (Thunderbird House) is our first dedicated Indigenous space that is built for ceremony and gatherings.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • Within Indigenous cultures, Elders are highly respected community members of a certain age who are recognized by the community as having knowledge on Indigenous worldviews, cultural knowledge and ceremonial knowledge. No two Elders have the same knowledge and they all have their own specialties. While one Elder be able to conduct a certain ceremony, they may not have knowledge on plant medicine.  

  • Elders can help with connecting you to culture and ceremony, but in most cases they are not counsellors. They are integral community members that can guide you in your cultural learning and connect you to the larger community. 

  • Sharing her wisdom, Nôhkom is helping to guide the work of our staff to better serve all our customers, leading public Pîkiskwêtân (let’s talk) topical classes and connecting with community members as she is able. Nôhkom Jo-Ann has graciously created time to connect with customers one-on-one, both virtually and in-person.If you are interested in meeting with Nôhkom Jo-Ann, please submit a request. Please note, we may not be able to meet all requests, but we will respond to all.

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