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Canada

Indigenous Language Centre opens at Calgary library

Calgary’s Central Library opened a new learning centre on Saturday, aimed at helping people connect with Indigenous languages and culture.

The Indigenous Language Resource Centre is located on the fourth floor of the downtown library and was designed with input from Calgary’s Indigenous community.

Heather Robertson, Calgary Public Library’s director of service design, said the learning centre fits well with the downtown library.

“When we were starting our work to build out our Indigenous programs and services, the community told us there was a need and desire to make sure there was more free, accessible spaces,” Robertson said.

Robertson said the centre combines traditional art with modern technology.

“It’s filled with artwork from Treaty 7 artists,” Robertson said.

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“[The centre] represents traditional aspects of the land.”

READ MORE: Calgary’s Central Library named on Time magazine’s 2019 greatest places list

The most eye-catching feature of the room is a canvas ceiling that simulates the night sky.

“We recognize that oral storytelling related to the stars and the sky is a way to bridge cultures and start sharing and story-telling,” said Robertson.

Indigenous children’s books

As part of the centre’s launch, the library also unveiled 12 new children’s books which were all written in traditional Treaty 7 languages.

Latasha Calf Robe was one of a dozen authors who took part in an Indigenous writers’ workshop.

“[It was] a surreal experience to be able to tell our own story and see ourselves portrayed in ways that we’ve always wanted to be portrayed,” Calf Robe said.

Her book Niitsippooktsistaanitsi is written in Blackfoot, and tells the story of her son’s traditional braids.

“His braids bring him strength. They bring him wealth and happiness,” Calf Robe said. “It’s his constant reminder of his mother and his family’s love that gets to be carried with him every day and everywhere he goes.”

READ MORE: Central Library celebrates 1st birthday amid uncertain future funding for Calgary libraries

Calf Robe said she felt empowered by the project and hopes it encourages other writers in the Indigenous community to share their own experiences.

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“We all got really close and got to know each other and know each other’s stories,” said Calf Robe.

“We really bonded over the love of children and the love of literacy.”

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All 12 books are available to be checked out from Calgary Public Library locations.

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