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Maskwacis celebrates opening of 1st public library

Click to play video 'Indigenous community south of Edmonton gets its first library' Indigenous community south of Edmonton gets its first library
WATCH: An Indigenous community south of Edmonton held the grand opening for its first library on Friday – Sep 20, 2019

Access to books, cultural literature and digital resources just became possible for thousands of people living on Alberta First Nations south of Edmonton.

The community of Maskwacis held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday for its first-ever public library.

“Since last February, I have signed over 300 patrons and that is a big number,” library manager Shirley Cire said.

“It’s been long overdue to have a library here.”

The new library, which is located at the Howard Buffalo Memorial Centre, currently has 800 books, but staff hope to double that number by next year.

Prior to having this space, Cire would host pop-up libraries once a week in the foyer.

READ MORE: Lethbridge library celebrates relationship with Indigenous community

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“Coming here, you’re going to get the same library service that you would get in Ponoka or Wetaskiwin,” she said. “You’re going to have access to computers, you’re going to have access to ordering books online.

“We’re doing this because it’s meaningful for the community.”

This milestone is more than just access to books; it also opens up opportunities to share Indigenous culture with a younger generation.

“It’s awesome,” said resident Jim Johnson, who brings his daughter to check out books every week. “There’s a lot of books in here that talk about culture, Cree culture, Aboriginal culture in general, so it’s definitely cool to give the Aboriginal kids in our community resources that cater to them.”

READ MORE: Cree curriculum at heart of Alberta First Nation education plan

Maskwacis includes the Samson Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and the Montana First Nation.

“It keeps these kids busy and gives an alternative rather than gaming and everything, which seems to be such a readily available resource,” Johnson said.

“It’s good to see them switch it up and go back to the old books and stuff.”

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Cire said those resources are important to members of the community on many levels.

“They use it for a place to come and learn, to find out information which helps them heal. So I believe we are doing something within truth and reconciliation.

“We’re doing this because it’s meaningful to the community and to me,” she said. “It’s a lot of work and I’m very, very pleased.”