Planning for an Indigenous Innovation Centre in Cochrane is moving ahead this month with a talking circle and a request to Town council for a space to house the centre.
The input of Indigenous people living in and around Cochrane is being sought by the group spearheading the centre. A talking circle is being held this Thursday (May 5) at the Frank Wills Hall from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Trent Fox, a project volunteer from the Stoney Nakoda Nation, said they want to hear from as many of the approximately 2,000 Indigenous people living in the Cochrane area and Stoney Nakoda community members as possible.
“We want to expand the Indigenous representation on the volunteer committee we have,” said Fox.
The centre will provide education to everyone living in Cochrane and the surrounding area about the history of Indigenous people and support for Indigenous people who are looking to access services.
“For us being the Stoney Nakoda, the town of Cochrane is our hub, our urban hub, so we want to make available an Indigenous space, where there is representation of the Stoney Nakoda culture,” he said.
“So, for example, some historical information, a place to provide education in terms of the truth and reconciliation process, understanding the impact of colonization and really to try and make people understand how that process impacted our communities.”
Daryl Kootenay, another volunteer on the centre committee, said it is important that Indigenous people see themselves and their history reflected in Cochrane.
"When I go into Cochrane, it's unfortunate, but the reality is, I see my community members struggling in the town of Cochrane, looking for rides home, asking for money from the people of Cochrane,” Kootenay said in a statement. In many ways, they're lost in a foreign place. This is an opportunity to help our people.
"From the beginning of Canada, we've always had our struggles in being successful in an urban environment and modern environment that's not part of our traditional governance systems and way of living. Having our identity being shared and having a centre in the centre of the town to me is very life-changing. I feel it will create a safe place for our people, but it's also an opportunity to be innovative and creative in building relationships."
On Monday, the group will ask Town council to consider allow them to use the Information Centre, which will be moving this summer, for an Indigenous Centre.
The group of Stoney Nakoda volunteers is working with the Rotary Club of Cochrane to fundraise for the project.
Michael Bopp, who sits on the Rotary’s Indigenous initiatives committee, said their fundraising goal is $150,000. So far they have raised a small amount and are currently applying for grants. They have also earmarked funds from their annual golf tournament towards the centre.
Bopp said the hope is the centre will become self-sustaining through guided educational opportunities, for example, once it is operational.