British Columbia

Meet Joseph A. Dandurand, VPL's 2019 Indigenous storyteller in residence

Dandurand, director of the Kwantlen Cultural Center, is the Vancouver Public Library's newest Indigenous storyteller in residence.

Program started in 2008 and is designed to promote intercultural understanding

Joseph A. Dandurand is the Vancouver Public Library's 2019 Indigenous storyteller in residence. (Vancouver Public Library)

A kind drama teacher set Joseph A. Dandurand on his path toward writing and storytelling. 

Dandurand said his acting coach, Terry Tweed, told him to try something else.

"I wasn't devoted to the craft. I was going through the motions," Dadurand told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast. "But I had been writing. It kind of pushed me towards writing more," 

Dadurand is a member of Kwantlen First Nation located on the Fraser River near Fort Langley, B.C., but he spent his childhood on military bases with his parents. 

When his mother was five, she was sent to the Kuper Island residential school off Vancouver Island. She graduated at 18 and joined the military where she met her husband, Dadurand's father. 

"There wasn't much for her to go back to, [and] that's why she married out," he said. 

Listen to the interview here:

Drawn back home

Dandurand received a diploma in Performing Arts from Algonquin College and studied theatre and direction at the University of Ottawa.

But after working in Ontario and Quebec, including as the playwright-in-residence for the Museum of Civilization in Hull in 1995 and another stint with Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto, he was drawn back home to Fort Langley. 

"I didn't really dig the whole scene," he said. "[So] that summer, 25 years ago, I was coming home. I was fishing. I was on my way to Mexico, live on the beach and write bad poetry."

But instead, Kwantlen Chief Marilyn Gabriel "scooped him up," appointing Dadurand to do archeological work in the community, including fieldwork to excavate artifacts and managing the cultural centre. 

"I've been working for my people ever since."

Storyteller in residence

Now the playwright, poet, and archaeologist is tackling a new adventure at the Vancouver Public Library. The program, which was started in 2008, was the first of its kind in B.C. The purpose of the role within the library is to emphasize the importance of oral storytelling as a way to learn about — and from — Indigenous communities in Vancouver.

One upcoming workshop he's excited for is a drumming workshop with well-known drum maker Darren Charlie from the Sts'ailes Indian Band at the Carnegie Branch on Feb. 25. 

"I have my own office. I have access to any material that I wish to look at," he said. "[It's] unbelievable."

With files from On The Coast