"at your library" in the north island eagle: awil'gola open house: celebrate first nations communities at the library

On Thursday, October 24, the Port Hardy Library will host Awil'gola Open House, a celebration of local Indigenous cultures.

Awil'gola is a Kwak'wala word loosely translated as "in celebration", "being with one another", or "all being together". We will be celebrating beautiful new Cultural Literacy Kits focusing on the Kwakwaka'wakw, the Kwak'wala-speaking peoples.

At the Awil'gola Open House, we'll unveil and launch these new kits. Members of the Kwakiutl Nation will demonstrate button-blanket making and cedar weaving, and students from the Gwa'sala-Nakwaxda'dw School will perform traditional drumming and dancing. There will be refreshments and prize draws – 10 children will each win a Kwak'wala-themed colouring book.

Cultural Literacy Kits are a learning experience in a box. Along with books, they may contain DVDs, CDs, or learning games and puzzles. Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) has many Cultural Literacy Kits in our collection, celebrating languages and cultures from around the world, all of which have helped shape Canada, and who continue to contribute to our multicultural world.

These new Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kits have an interesting history. In recent years, VIRL has been proud to participate in reconciliation, through programs like Read for Reconciliation and the Indigenous Voices series.

In Port Hardy, we reached out to members of the Indigenous community, especially those involved in literacy and education. We asked how we could better serve these communities, and we got together to discuss the possibilities.

VIRL already had two Kwak'wala kits. The local group thought they were great, and recommended ways we could make them even better.

VIRL was excited about the possibilities. It was decided not only to update the materials in the kit, but to increase the number of kits from two to nine. We consulted with educators and publishers to choose books, puzzles, puppets, and other materials. The new kits celebrate the history, strength, and resiliency of the Kwak'waka'kw. It also walks the path of reconciliation, teaching about the Residential School System, the trauma it caused, and the healing that continues.

Each Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kit features a selection of relevant books, a puppet, a wooden puzzle, and an educational card game, plus a colouring book, a CD of traditional music, and a DVD of "Potlatch – To Give", a movie by the celebrated Indigenous filmmaker Barbara Cranmer.

The U'mista Cultural Centre generously donated copies of the Kwak'wala-language edition of Love You Forever, by Canadian children's author Robert Munsch.

I hope that families from all backgrounds will borrow a Kwak'wala Cultural Literacy Kit to learn and explore. And I hope you'll join us for the Awil'gola Open House – all celebrating together.

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