Building Community Through Story: Elders Teachings Project

I have always believed in the power of story and storytelling. Throughout my life and particularly in my work at the Calgary Public Library I have witnessed how stories connect across ages and cultures, heal wounds, foster understanding and drive change. As author Robert Stone said, “Storytelling is not a luxury to humanity; it’s almost as necessary as bread. We cannot imagine ourselves without it, because the self is a story.”  Therefore, when Vibrant Communities Calgary approached the Library to be a partner in this pilot project it made sense on so many levels.

In an initial meeting with Roy Bear Chief and Amanda Ens, Roy told the story of  Anitapisi  and how humans were lowered from the upper world  to the earth. Anitapisi  told the humans  that a web would remain with them so that the Creator would know when to help them.  Whenever there is trouble a string of the web would vibrate so that the Creator would come to help. Roy Bear Chief went on to explain that man was told to pattern his life after the web so that we stay close together and help each other whenever needed. Roy said that with the Elder’s Teaching Project there were many people and organizations in the web, and that he felt the Library was one.

Both the Opening and Closing ceremonies for the Project were held at the Central Library theatre, and the space was blessed by Elders’ prayers, drumming and wisdom. Those of us who were fortunate enough to attend both events heard powerful stories from the Elders of Treaty 7 Nations. The truths that were shared with the audience reminded us that there are many journeys but ultimately it comes back to family, community and understanding that everything in the web is sacred.

Over the summer, Elders also shared their stories as participants in the School’s Out for the Summer Program at Forest Lawn Library. This Program provided free lunches for kids accompanied by programs and activities. We are grateful to Elder Dolly Runner and Elder Clarence Wolf Leg who shared knowledge and stories with the youth.

Through the Elder’s Teachings Pilot Project the Calgary Public Library has gained knowledge, built connections and community, and strengthened our position in the web. We are grateful to Vibrant Communities Calgary, and particularly Renee Monty, Pam Beebe and Roy Bear Chief for including Calgary Public Library in the Project. – Rosemary Griebel

Rosemary is the Service Design Lead for Readers at the Calgary Public Library.

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