For immediate release:
EDMONTON, AB, April 7, 2017 – Customers can now visit the library to experience Indigenous culture, traditional knowledge and spiritual support in a new capacity, as Elder Wilson Bearhead (Nakota) from the Paul First Nation has been named the Edmonton Public Library’s first Elder in Residence.
As part of EPL’s commitment to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, feedback was gathered from Indigenous communities that highlighted the opportunity to introduce an Elder in Residence program. The program is a first for the library, as well as a next step in ongoing efforts to provide options for all Edmontonians around education, understanding and dialogue when it comes to reconciliation.
“We are honoured to have Elder Wilson Bearhead as EPL’s first Elder in Residence,” said Pilar Martinez, Chief Executive Officer of EPL. “EPL is so pleased to be able to respond to feedback obtained from Indigenous communities and provide an opportunity to contribute to reconciliation in our city through this Elder in Residence program.”
As a cultural educator and member of the Wabamun Lake Indian Band in Treaty 6 Territory, Elder Bearhead has served as a traditional helper in ceremony and community events, and has also served as the Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations and the Alberta Regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations. He has tremendous experience working with Indian residential school survivors and their families, educating non-Indigenous people, and assisting in the reclamation of culture through teachings and ceremony.
“I see this Elder in Residence program as an important step in creating a welcoming and comforting environment for Indigenous people in Edmonton,” said Elder Bearhead. “When I see an Indigenous person, young or old, greeting me with a smile and telling me how good it is to see another Indigenous person in this place, it makes me feel good to know that I have helped to replace some of that person’s loneliness with a feeling of connectedness.”
The program follows the launch of EPL’s Exploring Reconciliation series in 2016, which provides numerous ways to develop a deeper understanding of reconciliation and its impacts. Events have included book clubs, film screenings, speakers such as Dr. Marie Wilson, Chief Wilton Littlechild, Dr. Patti Laboucane-Benson and more, as well as the acknowledgement of both National Metis Week and the anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation final report and Calls to Action.
Elder Bearhead will work at EPL two days per week, one at the Abbottsfield Branch and the other at the Enterprise Square Branch. He will meet with individuals, host programs, support staff, provide smudgings, offer prayers at events and more – all based on identified community needs and feedback. His complete schedule can be found online.
Those interested in connecting with Elder Bearhead can contact one of the two branch locations during his office hours.
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