The start of any creative process can be intimidating, especially if, traditionally, your stories aren’t often shared.
That’s why a trio of Métis librarians are using their expertise to encourage other Indigenous peoples to write, edit or publish their own stories.
“We’re called the Book Women podcast which is also known as ‘masinahikan iskwêwak’ which is the Plains Cree word for a female-identifying librarian,” Kayla Lar-Son said.
Lar-Son created the podcast alongside colleagues Sheila Laroque and Tanya Ball when all three worked at the University of Alberta.
“It’s about Indigenous ideas of publishing and libraries and how we tell stories in different ways,” Lar-Son said. “But, it branches out from books in so many ways. A lot of our guests come from different backgrounds. Students, published authors, even a burlesque performer.”
The trio have also taken the podcast into the Indigenous community. That includes travelling to the community of Maskwacis to learn about traditional storytelling.
“If you listen to that episode, you can hear the kids running around in the background or playing the drums,” Lar-Son said.
The podcast highlights aspects of Canadian history that aren’t widely known.
“Often, Indigenous stories are forgotten about or even fetishized. We just want to talk about Indigenous stories from a really holistic place,” Lar-Son said. “We incorporate our own lived experience in it. We are all Métis women, but with very different backgrounds.”
The women, who all hold masters degrees in library and information studies, say it’s rare for them to see other librarians with a similar background.
“Within Canada, last time they did a survey of Indigenous librarians there were less than 30 of us. That number grows every year, but it’s still a very small pool of Indigenous librarians with their masters in Canada compared to other demographics that are working in the field,” Laroque said.
“So, the three of us that are working on the podcast are about 10 per cent of Canada’s Indigenous librarians.”
The stats highlight the need for more diverse stories, the three said.
“We have a large pool of really talented people that we know in our circles and we should lift them up. There are many different ways people can tell stories, we just need to hear about how they got into what it is that they do and why they do it,” Laroque said.
She also noted how important it is to have representation in the field.
“We don’t see ourselves in the process. We don’t see ourselves as content creators, because we’re not necessarily featured as such. There’s aren’t a lot of examples for us to lead. If we can pull back the curtain on how Book Women makes things, it really demystifies things.”
The podcast, which receives financial support from the Writers’ Guild of Alberta, has wrapped season one, with plans to produce a second.
“I want people who listen to the podcast to say ‘Oh! I should get working on that project I’ve been thinking about.’ I want to be that little spark for someone to get going.”
If you know someone involved in the Indigenous storytelling community, you can connect with Book Women podcast here.