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Banff Mountain Film & Book Festival Recap & CMA Launch


Aviva Fialkow


Nov 15, 2023


Nov 15, 2023


The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival welcomed visitors from around the globe in a celebration of mountain culture. Bringing together people, ideas, and art to explore the meaning of these unique landscapes in present and future contexts. As we examine mountain landscapes, economies and resources, it is imperative that we recognize the many ways in which generations of Indigenous communities across Canada have protected biodiversity and contributed to knowledge mobilization and research. It is also vital that we acknowledge the legacies of harm and extraction with the displacement and exclusion of Indigenous communities from their traditional territories. 

The Canadian Mountain Network is grateful to the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival for creating opportunities that bring knowledge holders, policy makers, researchers, authors, artists and athletes together to have these important conversations.

BIMFF sign - Banff

Highlights from the festival include the following: 

  • On November 4th, Jeff Horvath of Spirit North led a group of eager early risers on a chilly sunrise hike up Sacred Buffalo Guardian Mountain (aka Tunnel Mountain). Jeff is a member of the Ojibways of Onigaming in north-western Ontario and currently serves as the principal of Tsuut’ina Nation High School. Jeff shared knowledge of the local nations comprising Treaty 7, educating many of the international visitors about how we are all treaty people while sharing the importance of cultural protocols and showing respect to the land. Hikers were invited to participate in a smudge ceremony atop the mountain as they awaited the sunrise. 

  • Later in the day these lessons came full circle at the Canadian Mountain Assessment (CMA) Launch event hosted at the Whyte Museum. The opening remarks were led by Hayden Melting Tallow of the Siksika Nation, who drew chuckles from the audience as he remarked about not having actually read the book yet and how he hoped they had used photos that showed his good side. Hayden grew more serious as he spoke about the importance of showcasing the diversity of Indigenous communities from all across Canada, and how the Canadian Mountain Network and the Canadian Mountain Assessment are elevating the voices of Indigenous peoples from mountain communities who are often overlooked by governments and development. Melting Tallow feels the book is a milestone that brings together different perspectives on mountains and the people that live there. Dr. Graham McDowell then provided an overview and context of the CMA, distinguishing that it represents two key things: 1) The book is a product – a place where we can come to learn and 2) The book is process that brought many individuals from across the country together to think about mountains and our relationships with one another. The CMA is an outcome of over 3.5 years of work and an immense amount of care and attention. 

  • Dr. McDowell then played a video recording from Dr. Carolina Adler of Mountain Research Initiative, who was one of the members of the International Advisory Committee' of the CMA. Dr. Adler spoke about the IPCC’s emerging efforts towards Indigenous knowledges as well as what the CMA contributes to advancing applied knowledge co-creation in a large assessment context. 

CMA launch

Dr. Adler’s video was followed by a short break and refreshments, and then a panel discussion from some of the authors and contributors to the CMA facilitated by Dr. Madison Stevens, Project Assistant to the CMA. Esteemed panelists included Elder Gùdia Mary Jane Johnson (advisor and author for the CMA), Keara Lightning (lead author and member of Sampson Cree First Nation and Masters Student at U of A), Dr. Shawn Marshall (advisor and author on the assessment and professor of Geography at UCalgary and Departmental Science Advisor for Environment and Climate Change Canada), Dr. Joseph Shea (lead author, associate professor of Geography at UNBC, Dr. Dani Inkpen (lead author and assistant professor of history at Mount Allison, Megan Dicker (Inuk from Nunatsiavut, lead author, studying at Carleton University). The panel discussion was deeply moving and highlighted the importance of collaborations between Indigenous knowledge and western science systems in relation to mountain systems. Contributors shared stories and discussed the meaning of the CMA, why it’s important, gaps in mountain knowledge, surprise outcomes from the project, the principle of humility, the scope of what we don’t know, and much more. Insights illuminated the significance of identifying and documenting mountain environments, current pressures facing mountains, and distinguishing mountains as homes from mountains as homelands. As well as key outcomes from learning circles, including the framing of gifts from the mountains and desirable mountain futures. 

The conclusion to the event was inspiring, filling audience members with hope for the potential of future mountain research guided by best practices utilized in the unique approach of the CMA. 

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