BANFF – The soft launch of Mini Hrpa in Banff signifies the end of one chapter and the start of another in the Bow Valley.
The Stoney named Indigenous cultural centre is one example of the collaborative projects, ideas and social enterprises discussed during all three phases of Moving Mountains, a two-year community-led initiative which aims to strengthen collaboration across Bow Valley’s civil society sector.
“The initiative we’re working on in Banff with Mini Hrpa – we’re creating a space, a centre for Indigenous peoples and for all peoples,” said Daryl Kootenay, co-lead of Moving Mountains. “It has a lot of momentum and I think it will really take off this year.”
Mini Hrpa, which is also the Stoney name for Cascade Mountain in Banff, is the brainchild of one of the initiative’s focus groups concerned with environmental and cultural learning. The centre is currently in a prototype phase, having celebrated its soft launch at the Banff Canmore Community Foundation (BCCF) March 24.
The Indigenous centre – currently in a prototype phase – is intended to be a space to gather, share and learn. For at least its first year, it will be based out of the BCCF building, until a permanent space is secured.
Kootenay, of Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation, said he hopes the experiences, conversations and stories shared there can help advance meaningful action toward Truth and Reconciliation in a more collaborative and effective way.
“There’s lots happening across the country and many people are trying to do reconciliation work here in the Bow Valley in many different capacities,” he said. “But these areas of interest, where there’s many more problems to be solved, we want to focus that work together to make the most impact.”
The goal of Moving Mountains is similar in its work bringing residents of the Bow Valley together to discuss how to best focus their collective efforts toward a cause, be it environmental, cultural, social, economic or mental health related.
Four ‘learn and try’ focus groups, comprised of residents of the Bow Valley, were created around different issues facing the area’s communities. About 75 people involved in focus group discussions gathered at the Canmore Miner’s Hall before the soft launch of Mini Hrpa to share findings.
The affordability and livability group, led by Kathy Hagan, examined potential gaps in food security programs across the Bow Valley, with one of the areas identified as unequal access to certain programs across communities.
“In our conversations, something that came up was wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring food to some of the people who are struggling due to an inability to access these programs?” said Hagan.
The idea led to the concept of creating a mobile field kitchen, where food could be brought anywhere in the Bow Valley from Lake Louise to Mînî Thnî. A program could include reusable containers to feed large families or individuals, Hagan suggested.
The group also identified other areas for potential food rescues from landfills, which could be used to make one-pot meals for the mobile field kitchen or for other organizations in need.
“Even though we do have some incredible programs in the Bow Valley, there’s still a lot that ends up in the landfill that is still quite useable,” said Hagan. “That’s something we need to take a closer look at.”
The mobile field kitchen is still in the conceptual phase, she added, but it’s an idea that has received vocal support from organizations in the area that could contribute to it.
Other groups focused on local and Indigenous economy, environmental and cultural learning, and mental health and wellness.
There are some projects that have lined up financial support, according to Kootenay, while others are still in search of funding to advance their ideas into action.
“Some of these ideas have some funding lined up, some of them don’t,” he said. “That’s the real-life scenario, beyond Moving Mountains, we need to think about building that capacity to be sustainable in that way.”
The Moving Mountains initiative started in May 2021 through a collaborative partnership with the BCCF, Town of Banff and Town of Canmore. It is funded by a grant of $400,000 from Alberta’s Civil Society Fund, aimed at facilitating transformative changes and enhancing the collaboration among civil society organizations to address social challenges.
According to the BCCF, the civil society sector in the Bow Valley consists of more than 200 formal and grassroots initiatives that work together with local and provincial government services to create a network of support and opportunities.
Through Moving Mountains, focus groups were formed to not only discuss issues facing the Bow Valley, but to explore fundraising strategies and develop funding approaches to assist vital community groups, including social enterprises.