The history of libraries for many First Nations and Métis people comprises their oral culture: “Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library” said Chief Luther Standing Bear. Elders are often compared to libraries: “their knowledge, their skills, attitudes and their experience constitute the record of the knowledge and the wisdom of the people. Their memories serve as collective knowledge and wisdom. Education is the process of communicating this knowledge and wisdom, through oral language, actions and behavior” (Blondin 1988: 3). Education and libraries were reinforced with the 1972 document Indian Control of Indian Education, which indicated that First Nations had the right to control their education systems by training Indian people to be teachers, and that education facilities had to be provided that would meet the needs of local populations. With this document, First Nations and Métis educational institutions became a reality.

The First Nations University of Canada (formerly Saskatchewan Indian Federated College) has libraries in three locations: Regina (1977); Saskatoon (1985); and Prince Albert (1992). These libraries support the classes offered with acquisitions written by, for, and about Indigenous peoples of the world. The mission of the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre (SICC) in 1973 was to assemble, organize, preserve, and make available print and non-print material relating to the history, language, and culture of First Nations peoples (with emphasis on Canada and Saskatchewan), and to serve all peoples as a source of reliable information on First Nations. The mission of the Pahkisimon Nuye?áh Library System is to provide library services that constitute educational and cultural resources to the peoples of Northern Saskatchewan.

In 1980 the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research (GDI) incorporated the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP) along with its library system. The GDI Library functions to support information and research that meet the needs of GDI and its technical institute. This library has three branches, whose collections focus on Métis history and culture, as well as on issues of concern to Métis and First Nations Peoples. The Albert Branch Public Library, built in 1913 and situated in inner-city Regina, provides a glimpse into Indigenous history. Through its collections and programs, it meets the needs of an inner-city community that is 40% Indigenous.

Phyllis Lerat

Further Reading

1996. Gathering Strength: Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Volume 3. Ottawa: Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples; Blondin, G. 1988. “A Case Study of Successful Innovation.” Master’s thesis, University of British Columbia.