EPL announces Elder in Residence

Elder Jo-Ann Saddleback aims to build inclusive community connections through Indigenous ceremony, cultural stories and knowledge exchange

For immediate release:

Edmonton, AB, April 21, 2021 – The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) is thrilled to announce Elder Jo-Ann Saddleback from the Saddle Lake Cree First Nation as EPL’s 2021 Elder in Residence and the first Elder in Residence to maintain residency in PÎYESÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN (Thunderbird House) at Stanley A. Milner Library.

EPL’s Elder in Residence program launched in 2017 as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action and acknowledgement of the City of Edmonton’s Urban Aboriginal Declaration. EPL values, recognizes and depends on the Elder in Residence to support its efforts to provide knowledge sharing and access for all Edmontonians around education, understanding and dialogue as it relates to reconciliation.

“We are honoured to have Elder Saddleback as EPL’s Elder in Residence,” said Pilar Martinez, Chief Executive Officer at EPL. “As a highly regarded Elder, cultural educator and artist, who has provided tremendous guidance to EPL over the years, Elder Saddleback brings Indigenous wisdom, invaluable knowledge and lived experience that will guide and support EPL’s efforts to provide meaningful services and programming to our customers.”

Elder Saddleback served as Elder Consultant during the extensive community engagement for the Indigenous Gathering Space at the Stanley A. Milner Library. Together, with Elder Jerry Saddleback, she blessed Milner Library and the gathering space as PÎYESÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN (Thunderbird House) with Grand Chief Willie Littlechild, Senator Patty LacBoucane, Mayor Don Iveson, Councillor Scott McKeen, MJ Belcourt and Chair of the EPL Board Dr. Fern Snart attending the pipe ceremony. She was also a member of the Stanley A. Milner Library Indigenous Art Selection Committee. As a cultural advisor, Elder Saddleback serves as Elder for the City of Edmonton Indigenous Framework development, and Elder for the City of Edmonton Indigenous Artist in Residence Program.

Watch Elder Saddleback speak about blessing PÎYESÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN (Thunderbird House).

“I am here to bring our stories to the Library; let it not be supposed that we did not have written word because we do,” said Elder Saddleback. “We have a profound kinship to written text through Cree syllabics, which contain all of our language, all of our beliefs, and all of our stories. This is why some of them are on the windows of PÎYÊSÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN depicting the name of the space. It is through stories that we find these shared experiences on which we can build on and find kinship.”

Elder Saddleback will serve a one-year term supporting EPL throughout 2021. During her residency, she aims to facilitate inclusive connections between Edmonton’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Her initiatives include: inviting the Indigenous Elder and Knowledge Keeper community of Edmonton into PÎYESÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN to conduct ceremony and to share cultural stories; offering her wisdom through group and one-on-one meetings with customers; inspiring Indigenous people to use the Library; and advising EPL staff on their work as they continue to develop Indigenous services and classes and events.

Elder Saddleback will be working from PÎYESÎW WÂSKÂHIKAN three days a week to facilitate meetings with customers. However due to current health guidelines, one-on-one and group sessions will take place virtually. For more information, visit epl.ca/elder-in-residence.  

EPL acknowledges the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the City of Edmonton Urban Aboriginal Declaration, Treaty Six and the City of Edmonton’s Indigenous Framework (Wahigicicobi/Wâhkôhtôwin/Kinship).

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About Elder Jo-Ann Saddleback

Elder Jo-Ann Saddleback’s heritage (her Mother) is Saddle Lake Cree First Nations and (her Husband) Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacîs. She inherits from her Mother, Christine Daniels, the Eagle Thunderbird Clan of the Western Mountains. Elder Saddleback is also Elder for the City of Edmonton Indigenous Framework development, City of Edmonton Indigenous Artist in Residence Program, Lead Elder for the Canadian Research Initiative on Substance Misuse (CRISM); for Thunderbird Partnerships, the Indigenous National research organization; for Dreamspeakers Festival Society. She has also worked with the Federation of Sovereign Nations, Maskwacîs Cultural College, and Cultural Advisor to The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada when it was in Edmonton, and gives lectures at many educational institutions, organizations and conferences. She is also an artist/artisan who owns Câhcacêp Art and BowsArt.

About the Edmonton Public Library
Edmonton Public Library (EPL) is proud to be 2014 Library of the Year! We’ve come a long way since 1913 when books were all you could find on our shelves… and we’re just getting started! Today, EPL carries everything you care about. We are Edmonton’s largest lender of all manner of information and entertainment. Our professionally trained staff take you beyond Google with the knowledge, discernment and desire to help you navigate a universe of information. The second most visited place in Edmonton, every year EPL hosts over 16.9 million in-branch and online visits across our 20 branches and website. We deliver our incredible content to you everywhere – in the library, at home or on your handheld device. Unmatched access and unrivalled value – that is today’s EPL. EPL is a registered charity and relies on donations to enhance services. Spread the words. www.epl.ca/give