After a devastating fire left Bella Bella, B.C. without a library, post office, and grocery store, a new space for the community's stories has risen from the ashes.
The small coastal village on Campbell Island was rocked to the core on July 12, 2013 when a fire destroyed one of the community's most important buildings, according to a donation page that was set up by the Heiltsuk Tribal Council to help rebuild what was lost.
Three girls, aged 13, 15, and 16, were arrested in relation to the fire, The Vancouver Sun reported. In the initial aftermath, Marilyn Slett, chief councillor for the Heiltsuk First Nation, which owns the building, told the paper that the girls did not set out to start the fire but "things got out of hand."
Thanks to the hard work and donations of many people both in and outside of Bella Bella, the Thistalalh Memorial Library was officially re-opened on Wednesday. B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon joined members of the RCMP and artist Ian Reid to celebrate the new space.
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"We are incredibly moved by the upwelling of support from strangers and book-lovers who want to help us get back on our feet and put books back in the hands of our community members," reads a statement on the library's website.
When he heard about the fire back in July, Whistler resident Bob Adams started a book drive to help replace more than 3,500 ruined library books, Pique reported.
The people of Kitimat collected 125 boxes of books to donate to the library as well, Global News reported.
The trailer that now houses the library was renovated and shipped to Bella Bella, complete with shelving and computers thanks to Government House, Britco, Rotary Club, London Drugs, and friends, said the library's website.
The new space holds about 4,000 books that sit on shelves made of Heiltsuk territory cedar, milled by local Heiltsuk people, The Tyee reported.
Thistalalh Memorial Library is "a gathering space around stories," Jessie Housty, the library's curator, told The Tyee. "Stories are sacred things. As Heiltsuk people, we really are nothing more than the sum of the stories we have lived in."
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