Red Crow Fire Destroys College Library

Feb 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-3: Sustaining Our Future, Tribal College News

A fire of suspicious origin on Halloween night caused serious damage at Red Crow Community College’s library near Cardston, Alberta. At press time, the college was still trying to find out if their insurance would cover all the damage, according to Red Crow President Marie Smallface Marule.  Police are investigating the possibility of arson. Despite the late hour (1:30 a.m.), several staff showed up, and some ran into the library and retrieved paintings.

The college continued operating in its student housing facilities while insurance adjusters worked in the main campus building. Originally the St. Mary’s Residential School, the three-story brick and concrete structure was constructed in 1917. The college converted the original chapel into a library. Although the primary structure is intact, the most expensive areas of the building were destroyed: the library, electrical system, and heating system, Marule said. They hoped to be back into the building by the end of January with a portable building for the library.

The library had accumulated over 20,000 books over the years, primarily through donations, according to Library Coordinator Mary Weasel Fat. Some may be salvageable. The Native American collection, including 150 Native American videos, was completely lost. The library staff had automated about a third of the library collection.

Despite the disaster, Weasel Fat retained her optimism and found some reasons to be grateful. She had just picked up a new, $5,300 cataloging system, but she had not brought it into the library. Although a large, $5,000 painting was damaged, they were able to save several limited edition prints, which they are selling for a capital campaign. About 20 oral history tapes of people on the Blood reserve were destroyed, but copies were stored elsewhere. Weasel Fat has been developing the library for seven years. “At least I know what to do,” she said. “I have been through it before.” She said they would welcome any books, periodicals, and Native American video donations.

The college continued with its plans to start a capital campaign in conjunction with its 15th anniversary on Nov. 29. “We hope to raise money to provide technical and vocational training as well as academic,” Marule said.

The fire will not affect plans for the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, which is being sponsored by Canadian First Nations institutions in August (see separate story). Donations can be sent to Red Crow Community College Library, P.O. Box 1258, Cardston, Alberta, Canada TOK OKO. Call (403) 737-2400 for more information.

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