Talking circles used to help Stoney Nakoda First Nation improve inter-band communication

A woman from the Stoney Nakoda First Nation west of Calgary is trying to bring the three bands that make up the nation closer together through talking circles.

Local woman setting up inclusive meetings for community to sit and talk about issues and ideas

Tasina Pope says she wants talking circles to take on the role of something like a community association, providing another layer of support and communication on the reserve. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

A woman from the Stoney Nakoda First Nation west of Calgary is trying to bring the three bands that make up the nation closer together through talking circles.

The circles are face-to-face meetings where people sit in a circle and talk openly about issues and opportunities for the community.

"In our community, residential schools were so successful at making us disconnect and not communicate effectively, now people make assumptions about each other," said organizer Tasina Pope.

"We really need to connect or come together more as a community," Pope said. "Talking circles are inclusive, we can talk about anything and everything."

The Stoney Nakoda First Nation straddles Highway 1 east of Canmore. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We were once known for round dances, and now we don't have that many. It's trying to bring something together," Pope added, saying she especially wants to bring elders and youth together. 

Pope got the idea of bringing together the Wesley, Chiniki and Bearspaw bands in conversation after watching and reading conversations on social media about life and the challenges of life on the reserve.

She says the chiefs and councillors can't tackle every issue, and talking circles could help bridge the gap.

She wanted to take those conversations offline and into talking circles.

"We can talk about arts and culture, or language, or recreation — so many topics," Pope said.

Pope says it's an opportunity to talk about some tough issues, like poverty, education and violence in the community, an issue she is all too familiar with. Her own brother was murdered on the reserve.

"He went out one weekend and unfortunately he didn't come home. He was murdered, actually just behind this hill here," said Pope, pointing out of the window behind her.

"It was really traumatizing and it woke up my spirit, so to speak. As a community member, I feel like I failed my youth, where I should have maybe been more connected to them, trying to get something going. It speaks volumes about how we really need to come together," said Pope.

Tasina Pope wants to boost community spirit and bring some new ideas and offer some new services to the three bands that make up the Stoney Nakoda. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Pope says the talking circles could also identify areas for improvement, in accessing services and funding different programs.  

"We can do something to encourage hope, community gardens or start a sports club team where we're getting accessible, secure funding, where we can create something sustainable and long-term," said Pope.

She says there are opportunities to involve groups and individuals from off the reserve, too, and she already has a couple of offers from groups that want to be involved. 

"I know there are people out there that are passionate Stoney Nakodas. If people really want a change, they need to come," Pope said.

She adds there are barriers like access to transportation and inter-family violence that often don't make it easy to get people together.

Pope says she has held two events so far, with the next one expected to take place in the coming weeks. 

About the Author

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist at CBC Calgary, filing stories for web, radio, TV and social media using only an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca