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Games and reconciliation

Library kicks off fall Cultivating Reconciliation program
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GO FOR A RUN – Karyn Gagnon demonstrates the "run and scream" game she will be teaching during a course on traditional Indigenous games this fall at the St. Albert Public Library as part of the Cultivating Reconciliation series. This game has participants run as far as they can on one breath and mark their distance with a customized stick. JOHN LUCAS/St. Albert Gazette

Families can come to the St. Albert library today for some free fun and games that will teach kids and adults alike more about Canada’s First Peoples.

St. Albert’s Karyn Gagnon will host a free program on the traditional Indigenous games of North America at the St. Albert Public Library Saturday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The course, aimed at grades 1 to 6, is part of a slate of free events the library is offering this fall as part of its ongoing Cultivating Reconciliation initiative, said organizer Geoff Manderscheid.

Gagnon, a librarian with Edmonton Catholic Schools who is of Cree and Métis ancestry, learned to teach traditional Indigenous games through the International Traditional Games Society 15 years ago and has previously offered sessions at St. Albert’s National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrations.

Gagnon said the games she teaches are ones Indigenous parents have used for centuries to teach their kids practical skills – skills that are still useful today. The “rock in a fist” game is a simple guessing game that teaches kids to pay attention, for example – great for spotting predators and staying focused while reading. “Run and scream” sees youths run as far as they can in one breath, plant a stick, and attempt to beat their opponents’ distances, which builds endurance and relieves stress.

“All the games are really about a holistic way of living,” Gagnon said.

Gagnon said she would teach guests how to play a variety of games and make their own game kits to take home. If you miss her Saturday, she’ll be back on Oct. 19 and Nov. 16.

More than just games

Gagnon’s games are the first of three free events at the library this fall meant to help people connect with Indigenous culture.

Previous events at the library emphasized history and getting at the “truth” of truth and reconciliation, Manderscheid said. This fall, the library has once again teamed up with Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton to help people understand the “how” of reconciliation.

“The idea of reconciliation can be really overwhelming,” said Miranda Jimmy of RISE, especially when so many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action don’t seem to apply directly to individuals.

“For me, it’s about coming to terms with our shared history.”

Jimmy said RISE will host workshops at the library Oct. 2 and Nov. 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. where guests would discuss the nature of reconciliation and concrete ways they can advance it. One way was to simply understand what the commission’s recommendations are so we can hold leaders to account for carrying them out.

“The first step in reconciliation is for people to educate themselves, and this is an easy way to do that.”

The library will also screen the film “Elder in the Making” on Oct. 10 from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Manderscheid said. The film shows the spiritual journey of a young Blackfoot aboriginal named Cowboy and a Chinese-Canadian newcomer as they travel across Blackfoot territory. St. Albert Canada Reads champion Celina Loyer will interview the film’s star and director, Chris Hsiung, following the show.

Visit to register for these events.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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