Nakoda culture crusader’s photo takes me down memory lane

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, October 18, 2018

Autumn view along Chiniki Lake Rd. west of Morley evokes beautiful memories of the late Stoney Nakoda Elders Lazarus and Lily Wesley. Main photo by Tasina Pope, inset by Warren Harbeck

Last week’s snowy-autumn morning inspired one of our readers to take a photo of leaves gloriously attired for their seasonal going-away party being held in Nature’s mountain-bordered ballroom near her home. As a personal bonus, her photo invited me on a journey down memory lane.

Tasina Pope lives west of Morley along Chiniki Lake Rd., not far from its junction with Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40). She is a prominent cultural crusader for the highest values in her beloved Stoney Nakoda First Nations tradition.

She is also the great-granddaughter of two iconic Stoney Nakoda Knowledge Keepers, the late Lazarus and Lily Wesley.

How often Mary Anna and I had driven down that very stretch of road to visit Lazarus and Lily right from the time in late 1965 when we first arrived in Morley. We had come at the request of Lazarus and Lily and others to assist in linguistics and Scripture translation into their treasured Stoney Nakoda language. Lazarus and Lily immediately took us under their wings, treating us as members of their family.

The couple’s knowledge of their language and heritage is legendary. Several of their family have carried on their legacy by becoming teachers of the language and culture themselves, both inside and outside the community.

Tasina is one of them. The former member of the Royal Canadian Navy and award-winning wellness advocate has devoted herself to addressing social issues in her community through re-engaging her people’s life-affirming traditions.

Obviously from her photo, that includes gratitude for the beauty of creation.

By the way, true to tradition, Tasina was given a Stoney Nakoda name: Îyâ To Wîyâ. Its meaning is visible across the middle of the photo: “Blue Mountain Woman.”

And yes, I’m sure that those blue mountains are proud of their namesake – as are her great-grandparents, and me, too! Thank you, Îyâ To Wîyâ, for your inspiring photo and its journey down memory lane.


© 2018 Warren Harbeck

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