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North Vancouver City Library welcomes first Indigenous storyteller in residence

Kung Jaadee will lead the library’s first storyteller in residence program throughout spring

Kung Jaadee, author, educator, drummer and singer, has more than a tale or two up her sleeve. Born and raised in Haida Gwaii, and as a member of the Haida, Musqueam and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) Nations, Kung Jaadee has unparalleled understanding of the stories, traditions and legends that make up much of local Indigenous culture.

For years Kung Jaadee has travelled the breadth of the country sharing her stories with all who will listen, and now she’s bringing her tales to the ears of those on the North Shore – as the North Vancouver City Library’s inaugural Indigenous storyteller in residence.

The program, a regular fixture at the Vancouver Public Library but a first for the North Shore, will invite a notable person annually to share stories across the spring season. As the first, Kung Jaadee will sing Coast Salish anthems, tell tales, teach elements of the Xaad Kil (Haida language) and perform Haida legends.

“I love it, it’s really incredible,” Kung Jaadee said of her residence at the library. “I am so grateful to be here, to feel so welcomed, and to be able to share my stories with so many community members who are so eager to listen and learn.”

The storyteller will delve into her own personal history at points, having used her family’s own stories as the basis for much of a self-made play. The one-woman production touches on the life of her great, great, great grandmother, a woman who was rescued from a beach on Haida Gwaii to evade the invasion of smallpox, as a way to educate program guests on the Indigenous communities who were decimated by settler-caused epidemics. 

Kung Jaadee said she hopes to reshape her presentation so it can be geared to all different age groups, from “babies and toddlers all the way up to seniors,” so all members of the community can learn about such important historical moments of the local First Nations. 

“The reality is, we really need to learn about the stories from the original people whose land we’re living on,” she said.

“Settlers of all cultural backgrounds really must know the true history of this place.”

If previous Indigenous programming is anything to go by, Kung Jaadee’s residence at the city library will be welcomed with open arms by the community, said Sarah Tarcea, the library’s programming manager. According to Tarcea, the thirst for knowledge on Indigenous traditions, history and culture locally is insatiable.

“This kind of programming always tends to be popular, and the North Shore community is really interested in learning more and engaging in this way,” she said.

“I think topics like reconciliation have really become of high interest to folks, and people want these opportunities to learn. We’re really happy to be a place where they can do that.”

Tarcea said Kung Jaadee’s generosity with sharing her time and her knowledge with the community has not gone unnoticed by library staff, who have “really appreciated” having the storyteller in their space.

“We’ve learned a lot from having her as part of our organization, and we know so many others will too.”

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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