How Did We Get Here?
For many years, there has been an acknowledged need in Canada for a national Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) association in areas related to Indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage - an alliance that brings together cross-disciplinary professionals, para-professionals, Indigenous knowledge keepers and Indigenous grass-roots community organizations to address matters of importance related to Indigenous ways of knowing, knowledges, language, cultural memory/heritage, and practitionership. This History is a synopsis of serval lanes of activists converging, and the ultimate formation of NIKLA.
Ontario's First Nation Public Librarians
The Ontario FNPLs began discussions of having an association of Indigenous librarians and Indigenous libraries in Ontario, and then across Canada in the early 2000s. With 54 FNPLs at the turn of the century and declining to 46 in recent years, it was evident that Federal, as well as provincial funding, was needed to support the Indigenous Libraries which did not have the same opportunity for municipal funding as their public library counterparts. This group of Ontario FNPL CEOs began to advocate for federal funding of the Ontario FNPLs as well as changes to other public libraries acts across the country so Indigenous libraries would be recognized and therefore funded.
Our Way Forward
In 2004 the Ontario First Nation Public Library CEOs drafted, accepted and approved the Our Way Forward Strategic Plan. This document focused on core areas of need, including funding and advocacy. 2014 and again in 2020 this Strategic Plan was reviewed
NAPLO & NALA
Over the years the Ontario FNPLs began discussions and plans for first a national association. Incarnations and variations of Names included the National Aboriginal Library Association (NALA) and National Aboriginal Public Libraries Organization (NAPLO).
AFN Resolution of Support, 2012
In 2011 the AFN passed a resolution of support for the establishment of NAPLO. In 2012 they updated this resolution with acknowledging the request for financial support from the Federal Ministry. This resolution reads:
1. Support the objectives of the National Aboriginal Public Libraries Organization (NAPLO) and encourage First Nation communities to use Our Way Forward and Speak Up to assist in creating and sustaining their own public libraries.
2. Support the need to advocate for federal funding that is dedicated specifically for ongoing operations of First Nation public libraries.
In April, 2012, a funding proposal from the National Aboriginal Public Library Organization (NAPLO) was submitted to AANDC requesting dedicated funding for First Nation libraries comparable to those available to other Canadians. In May, 2012 the National Chief wrote a letter of support reinforcing the need and support for funding for First Nation libraries. A link on www.afn.ca was also created to support the objectives of NAPLO.
2018 Ryerson Summit
Supported by the Ontario Library Association as a pre-Super Conference meeting, a group of like-minded people from across the Country met for a day long summit at Ryerson College for the purpose of putting to action the desire to establish a formal association which could meet the needs of Indigenous practitioners in libraries and Indigenous studies. In this meeting it became evident that the needs bridged beyond librarians and into all Indigenous knowledge sectors and must include both Indigenous practitioners, Allies, and organizations. At this meeting a number of volunteers offered to sit on a working group to establish what would become NIKLA.
2019 & 2020 Meetings
Since 2018, a collegial network and community of practice of Indigenous and non-Indigenous practitioners and professionals with interest in Indigenous knowledge, culture, and language began looking forward to establishment. As the Indigenous Matters Committee of the CFLA continued to work in their groups, ongoing discussions and small group meetings occurred, keeping the fire of the ultimate aim of seeing NIKLA emerge as a formal Association.
Photo taken by Feather Maracle, courtesy First Nations Public Librarians Facebook Page
In early 2021 a group of Indigenous librarian activists came together to realize the goal of NIKLA establishment. This group included one member from the Our Way Forward and NALA/NAPLO Era, and two leaders from the Ryerson Summit (Academic librarian and First Nation Public Library librarian). These three worked to bring to life NIKLA on behalf of all the activists who had been involved over the two decades.
By that March, this group established NIKLA as a registered NFP and spent the spring completing the by-laws and legal obligations of the association in preparation for recruitment and the First Members Meeting.
Goals for the Future
The intent of this national Indigenous alliance is wide-ranging, but we hope that, through this Association, NIKLA provides a gathering space to engage knowledge, language and cultural heritage practitioners and professionals together. This will be a space to share and expand current knowledge systems, and to allow for networking between Indigenous practitioners, and with our Allies. And in this, together, we will change for the future together.