“I recognize that First Nations people have a significance to Canada, B.C. and Creston that is greater than just their numbers,” said Aaron Francis, Creston and District Public Library’s chief librarian.
“The Lower Kootenay Band has a deep history and culture in the Creston Valley, and we’re right in the middle of it. We want to celebrate that we are Lower Kootenay Band’s library. We have an obligation and I want to ensure band members see they are represented here.”
To further his aim, Francis contacted LKB Chief Jason Louie and asked what the library could do to build a deeper relationship and show band members they have a connection to the regional facility.
“Then Misty (Louie) came forward and took the initiative,” he said. “She applied for an LKB economic development grant and convinced the LKB council to support her.”
Misty Louie, who last year completed a five-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, and who remains in the air force reserve, will be working part-time, 16 hours a week, on the program until she leaves to further her education in Seattle. She plans to become a nurse.
“Part of my job is to find elders and knowledge-keepers, and to act as a liaison between them and Aaron,” Louie said. “They will advise on materials the library can acquire that are meaningful to our people.”
The library will pay for supplies and media to enhance its connection with the LKB, while the band is paying Louie’s wage.
A sign that will welcome library patrons in the Ktunaxa language will be installed, First Nations artwork will be displayed and historical items — like a sturgeon-nosed canoe — and photos will find a home in the library.
In addition to her duties in overseeing those projects, Louie will work three hours each week at the front desk, welcoming patrons and checking out their materials. She will also present an information session about the library to the Lower Kootenay Band.
Francis said he is committed to finding ways to keep Lower Kootenay culture and history alive. The band has a presence in the Creston Valley for at least 10,000 years and the Ktunaxa language is unique, a rare standalone language that had no outside influences as it was formed. Much of the Lower Kootenay Band’s history, culture and folklore have been carried on through its storytelling tradition.
“I hope we can explore the bigger question about how to share this knowledge and information that isn’t in a conventional form,” he said. “Lower Kootenay people are keepers of the deepest knowledge of this place we live in.”