Building relationships one book at a time

It may be small, but the Spirit Bear Little Library comes with big purpose.

Found near the Indigenous Healing Garden on the north side of Brock’s Roy and Lois Cairns Health and Bioscience Research Complex, the wooden structure houses books meant to encourage conversations about reconciliation, share anti-racism information and build relationships on campus.

“We aimed to make a physically visible presence that supports this work today and hopefully sows seeds for tomorrow’s students that will walk the grounds of Brock University,” said Lyn Trudeau, Lecturer in the Centre for Women’s and Gender Studies and a Brock PhD candidate, following an event held Thursday, April 6 to celebrate the Little Library’s arrival on campus. The event was hosted by the Hadiyaˀdagénhahs First Nations, Métis and Inuit Student Centre and the Office of the Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement.

Members of the Brock community are invited to drop off or pick up books related to reconciliation and anti-racism at the Spirit Bear Little Library at any time.

A group of four people stand in line beside a wooden little library.

Drake Maracle, Jeffrey Hill and Dylan Ritchie from the Fort Erie Native Friendship Center joined Lyn Trudeau (second from right) in welcoming Brock’s Spirit Bear Little Library.

It is now stocked with books published by the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society by Cindy Blackstock, the Caring Society’s Executive Director and a renowned activist for Indigenous children’s rights. These include Spirit Bear: Honouring Memories, Planting Dreams and Spirit Bear: Fishing for Knowledge, Catching Dreams. The University’s President’s Advisory Committee on Human Rights, Equity and Decolonization helped to fund the purchase of the books in 2022.

Brock’s Instructional Resource Centre (IRC) has also donated books to the Little Library.

Trudeau, who had a key role in launching the initiative, hopes having the Little Library on campus offers another way for people to engage with the information shared in these materials.

“If you have something on the web, it’s so easy not to engage. It’s too easy,” she said. “But, if you have a physical presence on campus that you see as you walk by, you’re in that physical space. That presence of Indigenous knowledge and of Indigenous ways of being is important to have physically on campus.”

Partnership with local Indigenous communities was a priority for Trudeau throughout the process of creating the Spirit Bear Little Library. Red Road, a culturally based Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre men’s program, designed and built the physical structure. A plaque has been added to the Little Library to commemorate the support of the Red Road program.

“This Little Library is important for two reasons. First, it was a collaboration with men in our community, and I am grateful that Lyn Trudeau facilitated this special gift,” says Robyn Bourgeois, Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement. “It also represents another contribution to our institutional obligations to the Ambearrister program as we host Entiohahathe’te, the Spirit Bear. On both counts, it represents Brock walking its talk on reconciliation and decolonization.”

The Spirit Bear Little Library was born out of work done to implement the Reconciliation Ambearrister program at Brock. Created by the Caring Society, the Reconciliation Ambearrister program is an initiative and resource to address inequalities of Indigenous children, youth and families. Brock’s Ambearrister is named Entiohahathé’te — a Kanien’keha (Mohawk) name that means “it will be a bright road/path.”

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