WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Islanders looking to learn more about Indigenous cultures and history can turn to their local library for resources.
The P.E.I. Public Library Service has a growing number of books in its Indigenous collection, which contains titles by Indigenous authors about various topics affecting Indigenous people.
"It's a collection we put together a couple years ago," said Grace Dawson, a regional librarian with the service, in an interview with Island Morning's Stephanie Kelly.
"We've been purchasing items related to Indigenous culture for years. But we decided with the release of the Truth and Reconciliation [Commission] and the findings there that it would be really helpful to have a really specific collection and designated as our Indigenous collection."
One of the tenets of being a public library is that we provide free access to that education and to that knowledge. — Grace Dawson, regional librarian
The collection includes books for all ages and on topics ranging from Indigenous spirituality to treaty and land rights.
According to Dawson, books in the Indigenous collection have been circulated more than 1,000 times in the past year.
"We were really lucky and happy to see that these resources are being used by Islanders," Dawson said.
Dawson said whenever there is increased public interest in issues that affect Indigenous people, the Public Library Service tries "to find additional resources to kind of enhance and broaden the collection so we're meeting those needs."
The topic of residential schools has again risen to national prominence after preliminary reports of the discovery of the remains of 215 children on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops during a ground survey.
Dawson said the Public Library Service has many books related to residential schools.
Some of those titles include the picture book I Lost My Talk by Mi'kmaw poet Rita Joe, and Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School by Nova Scotia journalist Chris Benjamin.
Education and reconciliation
Dawson believes public access to books and resources about Indigenous communities can contribute to the "road toward reconciliation."
"I think education and knowledge is everything," Dawson said. "One of the tenets of being a public library is that we provide free access to that education and to that knowledge.
"These are topics that we might have not learned in school, and so the library becomes a really good resource for individuals to become more educated on these issues, and to be able to talk about it more freely and in a more educated light."
Islanders can find out more about the Indigenous collection at the Public Library Service's website or by calling their local library branch.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports. A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
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