First Nations Public Library Week at SLPL includes display of local residential school archives
Andre Gomelyuk - Staff Writer
First Nations Public Library Week (FNPLW) takes place in Ontario from Oct. 3 to 7 and the Sioux Lookout Public Library (SLPL) prepared a display and programming for the week.
Information on the Ontario Library Service website [https://resources.olservice.ca/fnplw] explains, “The inaugural First Nations Public Library Week (FNPLW) took place in February 2000. This initiative started at the request of Ontario First Nation public librarians. During the formative years, this librarian-led project was organized by Ontario Library Service – North (OLSN) in collaboration with Southern Ontario Library Service (SOLS). As of 2021, OLSN and SOLS amalgamated to one organization called Ontario Library Service (OLS).
“Between 2000 and 2002, the FNPLW outreach strategy focused on FNPLs and their patrons. This later expanded to celebrating First Nation Library services and patrons from all library sectors across the Province of Ontario. The original FNPLW program purposes outlined by First Nation librarians remain the same and have now expanded to include municipal public libraries.”
Shawn Bethke, the Library CEO, shared the importance of raising awareness of First Nations culture, history, and Canada’s residential school legacy, “A lot of people are hearing about this for the first time... There is a story here in Canada people don’t know about.”
The library welcomed everyone to visit on The National Day For Truth and Reconciliation Day, hosting a viewing of The Secret Path, an animated film adaptation of Gord Downie’s album and Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel. The library provided orange donuts to patrons, creating a safe space in the media room for an open forum discussion on the film and the legacy of residential schools.
The library has prepared a display featuring books on First Nations culture, language, stories, different traditional medicines, art and photos. The SLPL is also displaying an archive of handwritten notes, letters, and administration records from Pelican Lake Indian Residential School and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
The media room will include informational posters prepared by Shingwauk Residential School Centre, Algoma University, featuring pictures of students attending Pelican Lake Indian Residential School, school services, programming, with first-hand accounts.
Bethke explained, “All the actual records that prove what happened, the names of the students, we have notes from the principals about medical care, photos of the children that were there, what they were doing at the schools.”
“Anyone can come and check out what the Sioux Lookout Library has in their Indigenous collection.” The library CEO shared, “There are people that might doubt what happened, but we have the actual records, you can see what the school produced. The library plays a big role in getting the word out, and information out about this, providing transparency and the records.”
Bethke said access to the records and resources featured during the week, will continue to be available to anyone interested.
He said the library would like to have the records digitized at some point.
The library encourages everyone to come out to see the displays as Bethke shared, “Relatives who are still surviving can come here and see what they [the records] said about a child who has passed away, what the doctor was doing, what the principal thought,” highlighting the importance of the week and extending an open invitation for everyone to take some time to visit the display.
The Sioux Lookout Public Library also has many virtual resources available on their website http://slpl.on.ca/resources which can be accessed with the 14-digit number found on the back of your library card.