The Naming of the Ottawa Public Library – Library and Archives Canada Joint Facility

Beginning in 2019, members of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg and the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation, with representatives of the Ottawa Public Library and Library and Archives Canada, came together to discuss the new building that would overlook the Kichi Zìbì Ottawa River lands. They shared their ideas and hopes for this unique space that would welcome every person to share the stories of our past, present and future.

Recognizing that the new building will be located on the traditional, unceded territory of the Anishinābe Algonquin Nation, receiving the guidance of the Host Nation throughout the planning and design process was essential. Through several engagement sessions, members of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg and Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation offered their knowledge and teachings. These conversations inspired the building’s design, including Anishinābe Algonquin territory recognition throughout, indoor and outdoor spaces for traditional gatherings, video and audio welcome messages in Anishinābemowin Algonquin language, and many opportunities to honour, support and showcase Indigenous art.

Reflecting on the process, Anita Tenasco, Director of Kitigan Zibi Education Sector said, “We needed to build trust, we needed to communicate, and we needed to really get to know one another. We built understanding and hoped that, in the end, all this would come out into a great design.”

As the process unfolded, it became apparent that this new building, designed to be inclusive and welcoming to all, could also be given a name in Anishinābemowin Algonquin language. Throughout public consultations that involved more than 4,000 people, including Indigenous peoples, Ottawa residents and Canadians from across the country, the Project Team repeatedly heard enthusiastic recommendations to honour Indigenous culture and heritage in the facility.

Naming is an honourable and powerful act: Elders are given the responsibility of selecting names that are meaningful for many generations to come. A given name would bring the facility to life and ensure that the spirit and intent of the facility is honoured.

After thoughtful consideration, the Host Nation and the OPL-LAC Project Team, chose the name Ādisōke — an Anishinābemowin word that refers to the telling of stories. Storytelling is the traditional means by which Indigenous peoples share knowledge, culture and history over generations.  Della Meness, Manager of Education, Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation explained, “The name of new Ottawa Public Library-Library and Archives Canada Joint Facility, Ādisōke represents partnership, commitment and respect. Every day in our communities, stories are being told about our families, our history and our culture. Storytelling connects our past with our generations.”

First Nations, Inuit and Métis across the country honour the importance of sharing stories. Through the oral tradition of storytelling, culture, language, and history are passed down from generation to generation.

Mariette Buckshot, Language and Culture Coordinator at Kitigan Zibi Anishinābeg explained, “I grew up on stories. My dad had a lot of great stories to tell and I learned a lot from those stories. But he wasn’t just telling the story, he was actually showing me also and teaching me. It’s us recording it for ourselves — we’re keeping our stories for ourselves. And knowing that this building here is going to house our stories, our true stories, our real history… Our stories are going to be there, recorded for our people and for the rest of Canada.”

Through the Ottawa Public Library collections, programs and services, visitors would access a constantly changing offering of stories: those in which they both see themselves and encounter one another. Like a good story that keeps unfolding, a library’s work takes new twists and turns as it serves its communities in the ways they need.

Library and Archives of Canada is the custodian of our country’s distant past and recent history, and the keeper of documentary heritage that helps and has helped people tell stories — most importantly, their own stories. By preserving and providing access to rich collections, these stories would support individuals and communities in engaging with historical records.

As collaboration continues, other rooms in Ādisōke will be given Anishinābe Algonquin names, such as The Children’s Discovery Centre, a Wigwam-inspired Circular Lodge and its adjacent exterior terrace, and the Outdoor Gathering Circle.

What started with Anishinābe Algonquin Elders and members, and Ottawa Public Library and Library and Archives Canada representatives sitting in a circle and storytelling led to Ādisōke. Ādisōke is a place for storytelling that reflects the languages, cultures, histories and art of Indigenous peoples, and is a leading example for other institutions and cities across Canada.

Learn how to pronounce Ādisōke.