The Vancouver Public Library has enlisted Tsleil-Waututh storyteller and knowledge keeper Les George as its newest Indigenous Storyteller in Residence.
The position, which will be held for four months across the spring season, will see George harness his Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam ancestry to curate programs and events that educate on their history and culture.
“It really fills my heart, knowing that I’m going to do this and share my knowledge with a lot of other people throughout Vancouver,” said George.
George, the grandson of Chief Dan George, is no stranger to spreading the word of his people through engaging storytelling.
For decades he has shared stories and songs through his work as a First Nations Support Worker with the North Vancouver School District, while his work as a cultural guide has him regaling tales of local legends and sharing cultural songs to the eager listeners who embark on his canoe-led Takaya Tours.
George said guests can expect these legends and songs at his Vancouver Public Library sessions, alongside tales from his own personal journey becoming a storyteller, and history lessons on the troubled past of the local Indigenous Nations.
“I plan on sharing a little bit about the past, and what has happened to certain people, as part of a larger topic on residential schools,” he said, adding how this new job serves as a “baby step” forward on the road to reconciliation.
“The door is opening a little bit. Events like this are shedding light on the truth of what really happened, and people are looking and learning, and asking more questions about it,” he said.
“This is the best channel to be educated, to go to Indigenous people themselves.”
Erin Watkins, manager of programming and learning at the Vancouver Public Library, said having George spearhead educational events is the best approach to increase the community’s understanding about Indigenous rights, histories and cultures.
“Les really works towards helping to decolonize our practices, and to centre Indigenous knowledge systems and understanding in the City of Vancouver,” she said.
“Especially since he has a link to the three local nations as well, it was always really important to have someone so well connected.”
George, the fourteenth Indigenous Storyteller to join the VPL’s residence program since it started in 2008, will begin his residency on March 9, kicking things off with an evening of storytelling, song and drumming at downtown’s Central Library. A full list of all other events can be found on the VPL webpage.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.