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.
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.
Contact the EIR
Nôhkom Jo-Ann will be working out of PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN in the Stanley A. Milner Library. She is available to connect with customers on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through video conferencing software, email and telephone.
Nôhkom Jo-Ann can be reached through email at EiR@epl.ca. She will be conducting one-on-one video conferencing sessions using Zoom. In your first one-one-one session with her, she will provide you with guidance on providing protocol if you wish to continue to meet with her.
Meet Nôhkom Jo-Ann
2021 Programming Sneak Peek
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 - FAQs
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.
Nôhkom Jo-Ann will be meeting with customers via Zoom and telephone. To book a meeting, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will provide instructions regarding protocol and access to her Calendly account, which will show when she is available to meet.