We aim to serve!

Photo Credit: Ignacio Community Library


Here at Ignacio Community Library, we aim to serve the entire community. 58.4% of the Ignacio population is Hispanic, Native American, or some combination of those ethnicities (Source: DataUSA). Keeping this in mind, we strive to offer materials and host programming that reflects our population’s background and interests. 

For women’s history month, we wanted to bring in a Chautauqua speaker. If you are not familiar with Chautauqua, in a nutshell, it is a performance by an actor (who is usually, but not always, also an historian) who portrays an historical figure for a presentation at a school, library, or museum. This historical actor will then field questions from the audience while in character as the historical figure. It is amazing to watch, and we think this sort of presentation would be fun and hopefully popular with our patrons. 

My preferred choice for an historical figure would have been a Native American historical figure such as Wilma Mankiller, Maria Tallchief, or Sarah Winnemucca, or another good option would have been a Latina/Hispanic historical figure. Unfortunately, I learned that no such performer exists in the entire Colorado Humanities Chautauqua organization, at least not yet. All the performers of women characters at the current time are white women portraying historical white women. 

This begs the question, why? Why are there no Native American or Latina actors or historians getting into the business of being Chautauqua speakers? It is not for lack of interested libraries, schools, or museums to book them, that’s for sure. I am not the only librarian looking for these types of performers for our venues.  

This situation really got my curiosity flowing, so I reached out to my contact at Colorado Humanities, Jennifer Macias, History Program Coordinator, to ask her about what becoming a Chautauqua speaker entails. Jennifer was so helpful and was also interested in the possibility of recruiting more Native and Latina performers to the program. She said that there isn’t a specific path to becoming a Chautauqua speaker in this area, at least not yet. There is a group in Mesa County that produces good speakers out of Grand Junction called the Mesa Murder Mystery. There was also an online Chautauqua training in 2022. This comprehensive and well-done training was hosted by the North Dakota Humanities organization and resulted in several speakers that Jennifer has since used at Colorado events with good results. I reached out to the organizers of the North Dakota online program to see if this is something they intend to repeat, or to see if we can do something similar here. If you are interested in history and acting, maybe you would consider getting involved? 

Our Women’s History Month Chautauqua speaker is going to be Abigail Adams, portrayed by actress and historian Jessica Downing Ford on Tuesday, March 26 at 6 p.m. here at the library; I hope you can come and join us!   

To top