The Santa Clarita Library has launched its new program: Yawáyro: Indigenous Awareness and Literacy Development, introducing Native American heritage and culture into children’s literature at the library.
Children, parents and Native American guests filled the Old Town Newhall Library on Tuesday to hear Dennis Garcia, Tataviam and Chumash elder, speak about his heritage and how he did not always have the opportunity to practice his culture.
“I was raised Catholic, and I always knew who I was through my grandmother, but I did not live the culture until my adulthood,” said Garcia. “Unfortunately, prejudice and discrimination did not allow my grandparents or parents to live their culture. Once it became available to me, I became part of it.”
Garcia began living his culture when he was 40 years old, and has been practicing it ever since. He shared important instruments and tools from his culture with the crowd and even performed a sacred dance.
The new books representing Native American heritage are organized into kits that will be circulated throughout libraries in Santa Clarita. The kits include books, additional information and discussion questions to reflect on the material.
“Through the Yawáyro book kits, the city and the Santa Clarita Public Library hope to bring awareness to Native American cultures, promote literacy and celebrate the diversity in the Santa Clarita community,” according to a Santa Clarita news release.
Throughout the event, children were able to participate in different crafts like decorating pumpkins and cut-outs of hands with jewels and markers.
“I think it is important for any kid growing up to be able to see themselves in books, movies, print and wherever they can,” said Elizabeth Purdy, children’s librarian at Santa Clarita Public Library. “Also, for the population that is not indigenous, they have the opportunity to learn and have a fuller picture of the Native American experience.”