In Conversation: Brian Calliou talks about Restorying Indigenous Leadership

June 18, 2015

This Sunday, June 21st, is National Aboriginal Day in Canada. The summer solstice, as the longest day of the year, has long been marked amongst Aboriginal people and communities as a day to celebrate their heritage and culture. Since 1996 all Canadians have been celebrating June 21st as a day to recognize and honour "the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding recognition of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples. Here on ALU, we have many great titles that speak to Aboriginal issues and/or have been written by Aboriginal writers, from works of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. We've collected many of the titles together here for you to browse.

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This Sunday, June 21st, is National Aboriginal Day in Canada. The summer solstice, as the longest day of the year, has long been marked amongst Aboriginal people and communities as a day to celebrate their heritage and culture. Since 1996 all Canadians have been celebrating June 21st as a day to recognize and honour "the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding recognition of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples."

Here on ALU, we have many great titles that speak to Aboriginal issues and/or have been written by Aboriginal writers, from works of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. We've collected many of the titles together here for you to browse. One such title is Restorying Indigenous Leadership: Wise Practices in Community Development, edited by Brian Calliou, Cora Voyageur, and Laura Brearley. Jenny Spurr at The Banff Centre sat down with Brian to learn more about how this essay collection came to be and what it's all about.

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Restorying

At the base of Sleeping Buffalo Mountain in Treaty 7 Territory sits The Banff Centre, an institution committed to providing artists and leaders with the support they need to create, develop solutions, and make the impossible possible. The Centre's home has a long history as a sacred gathering place for Indigenous people who met there for trade and sharing, visions, ceremony, and celebration. That tradition continues today as Indigenous arts, business, and community leaders from around the world come together for learning and dialogue.

For over 40 years, Indigenous Leadership and Management at The Banff Centre has provided relevant, impactful leadership development programs designed for Indigenous community leaders to guide change and achieve results. Woven throughout the symposia, forums, and workshops is a strong message for leaders: lean on traditional knowledge and local experience when addressing current social issues.

“Community leaders have a lot of gifts: wisdom, strength, and experience,” says Brian Calliou, program director of Indigenous Leadership and Management. “These gifts can be shared with the world, but it’s important they inform community and economic development locally.”

It’s this message that led to the development of Restorying Indigenous Leadership: Wise Practices in Community Development, a scholarly resource on Indigenous leadership. Published by Banff Centre Press last fall, the book has garnered attention from post-secondary institutions across the globe. And though he’s thrilled with the response, Calliou–who co-edited it along with Cora Voyageur and Laura Brearley–knows the book was a long time coming.

“It started quite a few years ago as an applied research project on wise practices for Indigenous leadership,” he says. Focusing on four Indigenous communities in Alberta, the research project aimed to provide rural leaders with the tools for successful self-governance and sustainable community development.

The results of this two-and-a-half year project were shared at the Wise Practices in Indigenous Community Development Symposium in 2012. “The symposium brought together researchers, practitioners, keynote speakers, and entertainers to share success stories and various approaches to leadership development,” says Calliou.

“From there, we were able to commission panelists who spoke at the symposium to write articles which became chapters of our book,” he explains. Calliou then wrote the introduction and conclusion with Voyageur and Brearley, both respected scholars in the field.

Each chapter provides models, approaches, and wise practices from both emerging scholars and established authors, blending contemporary techniques with traditional Native knowledge.
Given the rise in industrial development on traditional Indigenous lands, Calliou believes the timing is perfect: “There’s a need for Indigenous community leaders to develop capacity and be a part of a national economy.”

“So much of social scientific literature up to this point highlights the problems in Indigenous communities,” he adds. “We’re telling a different story here–we’re talking about the strengths and successes in these communities. The premise being that there’s a lot of wisdom in Indigenous communities that we can learn from.”

His hope is that Indigenous leaders will be inspired by the book to take action in their own communities “so that when external pressures mount, they draw upon their cultural values, including the knowledge and wisdom in their community.”

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Thank you to Jenny and Brian, and Banff Centre Press. To learn more about National Aboriginal Day and local events that may be happening in your area this Sunday, please visit the Government of Canada's National Aboriginal Day website.


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