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.

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About the Elder in Residence

Nôhkom Jo-Ann Saddleback

Nôhkom Jo-Ann Saddleback is nehiyaw and 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. She is a beloved Elder in Treaty Six Territory and beyond, who works incredibly hard to revitalize the matriarchal governance of nehiyawak, ensure Indigenous people suffering with addictions are supported, and support ihkwewak (all genders). She travels and works tirelessly to ensure the next generation is equipped with the beautiful lifeways of nehiyaw culture.  

As a young woman, Nôhkom Jo-Ann was mentored under and visited many Old People in First Nations and Métis communities who initiated her to ceremonies and evaluated the teachings she shared in communities. She remains grateful that they entrust her to continue work sharing their wisdom.  

Nôhkom Jo-Ann has been the Elder-in-Residence at EPL since 2021, but worked with the library for many years prior on the creation of PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN, EPL’s first dedicated Indigenous space, ensuring that it was culturally relevant and beautiful to people in this territory. Now, she works in PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN to ensure urban Indigenous people have access to ceremony and culture.  

She is also an Elder for the Art Gallery of Alberta, the University of Saskatchewan Project on addictions and Canadian Research Initiative on Substance Misuse (CRISM), and the Edmonton 2Spirit Society. She has served as a Cultural Advisor for the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, worked with the Elders’ Cree Language Committee on drafting the Cree Language Declaration for the four bands of Maskwacîs, and consulting on various building projects including the renovation of Wanuskewin Heritage Park.  

Nôhkom Jo-Ann is an artist and writer, currently working on her first full length play. She is always working to promote and support Indigenous artists, musicians, and writers in the City of Edmonton and beyond.

Have questions about EIR?

If you would like to meet Nôhkom Jo-Ann, we encourage you first to check out the Elder-in-Residence programming displayed on this page. If you would like to visit her, you can request a meeting

Nôhkom Jo-Ann works out of PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN in the Stanley A. Milner Library downtown. Sharing her knowledge, Nôhkom is helping guide the work of our staff, leading classes and ceremonies, and connecting with community members.  

Meet Nôhkom Jo-Ann


Elder-in-Residence Programming

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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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