The West Vancouver Memorial Library is welcoming Dene author Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty as its first climate writer in residence.
Until the end of March, Lafferty will look to give voice to the climate crisis from an Indigenous perspective, both through writing and the holding of events, while working on her own writing project.
“My vision for engaging the community during the residence at the library will be to start by hosting open and interactive sharing circles with members of West Vancouver’s community, including different spaces for youth and seniors, to gather input on what they hope to learn from me during the residency,” Lafferty told North Shore News.
Lafferty’s memoir, Northern Wildflower, was a top-selling book in the Northwest Territories when it was released in 2018. Her recently released novel Land-Water-Sky/Ndè-Ti-Yat’a was nominated for an Indigenous Voices Award.
The residency is funded by the British Columbia government’s BC Safe Restart Fund for Local Governments.
Lafferty, a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, said she applied for the residency as a way to lend her strengths as a writer to those trying to find ways to make sense of issues surrounding the climate crisis, and to spark an “enthusiasm” that might prompt communities to join in efforts to mitigate climate change.
“My latest novel Land-Water-Sky, I’ve been told, is considered by readers to be a timely book on the importance of respecting the natural world,” she said.
“It covers the topic of environmental injustice through the dispossession of land, the witnessing of climate change in the North, and the capitalistic nature of the industrial revolution that has not left much room for the natural world to coexist.
“It’s through this type of storytelling I believe I can assist library participants to join me during this residency, and open themselves to learning from Indigenous knowledge-holders about the intricate details of nature from a storied perspective on why it is important to honour and reciprocate what nature has to offer and listen to what it is asking of us.”
Lafferty said Potawatomi writer Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass is one of the most impactful she has read regarding climate change and the environment.
“It focuses on the natural world, based on her memories of Indigenous knowledge systems growing up,” Lafferty said.
“Kimmerer is able to give us detailed insight into solutions on how to go back to caring for the land once again, and learning how to live in the essence of nature rather than considering ourselves separate from it.”
She suggests that it’s one of the books people should be reading right now, as it has an innate ability to bring readers into a world that is respectful of nature.
“Through this book we learn that a strawberry is not only delicious, but it is also connected to our heart. We learn that a swamp has qualities that go far beyond the unpleasant sight of it,” she said.
“This book is a gift because it teaches us how to see with more than just our eyes. It breaks down ecology into simple yet complex inner workings in a way that helps us to see the interconnectivity of nature and incorporate these principles of nature into our everyday lives.”
Lafferty said she looks forward to holding writing group exercises during her residency, helping groups to write short stories from a natural world perspective.
“By giving nature a voice, we remember that it, too, is a character and not just the backdrop of a story,” she said.
“Unlike any other characters, nature is not only one part of the story, it connects with all characters – and without it we can’t exist. And for that reason, we must take care of it in order to take care of ourselves collectively.
“Tackling climate change – starting from the strong roots of Indigenous worldviews in caring for the land, water, and animals – is where we must begin if we want to heal the Earth.”
Excited to work with West Vancouver’s youth, Lafferty said that even though they may be worried about the future, there is always hope.
“Change can sometimes happen slower than we want it to but there are people all over the world coming together for a cause that is greater than ourselves, and in that we can feel some sense of assurance that things are moving in the right direction,” she said.
“We desperately need the youth of tomorrow to help leaders invent and accept new technologies to replace the old industrial revolution and move towards a change that is greater than ourselves: one that is not focused on profit, capitalization, or archaic policies, but on working together for the greater good.”
The library’s head of community experience, Tara Matsuzaki, said Lafferty’s expertise will help to further the library’s work around the climate crisis.
“Given the recent extreme weather events we’ve been seeing, this work feels more important than ever,” she said.
This article was first published by North Shore News and is reprinted by Cabin Radio through the Local Journalism Initiative.