A standup start to National Indigenous History Month at the Calgary Public Library
If the celebration of Indigenous people and culture starts with a day or a month, Sherry Mckay is fine with that -- it could be what helps others get over their apprehensions.
But she says it shouldn't end there.
"There doesn't have to be a special day or a particular month for people to celebrate us and who we are as Indigenous people, but I think that it's a good start," she told CTV Calgary.
"I think that it can be scary for some people who learned about us in a different way to step into that space of really figuring out who we are."
Mckay, an Ojibway Anishinaabe comedian, was all set to kick off the Calgary Public Library's programming for National Indigenous History Month with a show on Thursday evening.
It was going to be a first for her -- she says she's never done standup in a library before.
Organizers say starting off National Indigenous History Month programming with a few laughs is a very fitting thing.
"For Indigenous people, laughter is medicine," said Mary Ann Forbes, community learning advocate at the public library.
"It's just part of our healing and all that kind of good stuff -- Elders always say that's a good way for us to kind of deal with some of the difficult topics and situations that we have to deal with out in the community."
"We use humour for healing and we use humour for teaching and for learning, so I think the fact that we're starting off this month in a healing, celebratory way is a great way to highlight Indigenous people," said Henri Giroux, Elders' guidance co-ordinator at the public library.
"It's celebrating that laughter and celebrating that humour and celebrating that lightness that Indigenous people have within us."
Henri Giroux, Elders' guidance co-ordinator at the Calgary Public Library.
That's important, and maybe gets missed sometimes, Mckay says.
"I think a lot of times when Indigenous people are mentioned or we're talked about, there's a lot of trauma and legacy of trauma that's involved in that," she said.
"I think to be celebrated is extremely important.
"Whether it's history or culture, we just want to be highlighted in a positive way as well."
Following Mckay's show on Thursday, the Central Library has an opening ceremony scheduled for Friday at noon.
Forbes says it's the start of a busy, busy June.
The Calgary Public Library website notes the following programming:
- KAIROS Blanket Exercise on June 10;
- Elders Storytelling with Elder Adrian on June 13;
- Métis History and Jigging with Doreen Bergum on June 15; and
- Film screening, live drumming and conversation with Stardale Women’s Group on June 24.
The library's website also notes the following workshops:
- Virtual frybread cooking;
- Inuksuk carving; and
- Dreamcatcher making.
There are also drop-in family storytimes.
For National Indigenous People's Day on June 21, there will be a special day of programming, on which Olympic medalist Alwyn Morris will speak virtually at 10:30 a.m. and on which a panel discussion about truth and reconciliation in sport will be held at the Central Library at noon.
Mary Ann Forbes, community learning advocate at the Calgary Public Library.
"We've got a lot going on," Forbes said.
But while the month is meant as a showcase, Forbes points out, "We are here all the time and we're going to continue to be here."
"We need to have the opportunity to share the history," she said.
"We have had a difficult history but we are learning a lot more about Indigenous people in lots of different ways. ... There's lots of opportunities to learn about Indigenous people and celebrate Indigenous people here at the library."
"We have incorporated something for the young and something for the old and something for everybody in between," Giroux said.
"Our goal is that eventually, it'll be so comfortable for them that it'll be continued throughout the whole year."
You can learn more about the Calgary Public Library's National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous People's Day programming, as well as the library's year-round programming, at calgarylibrary.ca/library-news/celebrate-national-indigenous-history-month-2023/.
(With files from Stephanie Thomas)