Banff Centre is helping to empower Indigenous leaders

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Brian Calliou full portrait in a winter forest.

Brian was born on Sucker Creek First Nation in Northwestern Alberta. And even though his mother moved them away when he was a young boy, Brian would return every summer to stay connected to his culture and community. It is because of this strong sense of identity that Brian feels so passionately about helping Indigenous leaders achieve their aspirations. As he’s been doing for more than 15 years at Banff Centre.

My identity and culture matter to me and I know it matters to all Indigenous leaders I’ve spoken to.

Brian Calliou looks out an office window with his reflection.

Photo Credit: Kari Medig 

As Director of Indigenous Leadership, Brian believes there needs to be a strong Indigenous lens to the programs that Banff Centre creates. For too long, Indigenous leaders relied on outside experts and resources – a dependency that Brian feels is important to change. That’s why Banff Centre’s programs help leaders draw upon their own culture, values and wisdom in order to fulfill the dream they have for their right to self-governance. Known as “wise practices” this approach enables leaders to go back to their communities and begin building from a position of strength.

There’s a strong spirit here on Sleeping Buffalo Mountain. There’s a power in this place.

Side profile of Brian Calliou outside on a sunny day.

Photo Credit: Kari Medig 

As important as it is to deliver programs that can be immediately put into practice, Brian also believes it’s vital to create a rich cultural experience for those who come to Banff Centre. Which is why his team integrates visual, arts-based and outdoor experiences into the programming. Some participants have even spoken of powerful dreams because of being so deeply immersed in nature where so much Indigenous learning is derived. 

Those who come here form a strong camaraderie and at the end of the week, quite often, tears are flowing.

Hand pulling a book out of a book shelve.

Photo Credit: Kari Medig

Ask Brian what success looks like and he’ll tell you it’s about empowering Indigenous leaders to effect positive change in their communities across Canada. He is passionate about the results of these programs and feels fortunate to know that Banff Centre is committed to the future of his team’s work— helping today’s Indigenous leaders pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

Brian Calliou looks up at Sleeping Buffalo Mountain in Banff, AB.

Photo Credit: Kari Medig

We would like to thank the Suncor Energy Foundation for its gift of $10M to support Indigenous Leadership and Social Innovation programs at Banff Centre.

Banff Centre is helping to empower Indigenous leaders.


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