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Canada’s First Nations and the annual Calgary Stampede

Written By | Jun 2, 2017

The Spotted Elk Camp, of the Tsuu T’ina Nation and their Tipi. Left to right: Brothers Louie and Joe Starlight, Chief Lee Crowchild, Elder Lee Starlight, Elk Woman – Deanna Starlight, Carmel Starlight, Ellery Starlight and Lonetta Starlight.

CALGARY, Alberta, Canada, June 2, 2017 ⏤ The First Nations people of Treaty, the Siksika (Blackfoot), Kainai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan), Stoney-Nakoda, and Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee), will once again join the annual Calgary Stampede, this city’s famed annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held for 10 full days each July.

Attracting over a million visitors annually, the Stampede bills itself as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”

Visitors to the 2017 Calgary Stampede will have a unique chance to learn more about the First Nations. These nations are central to Canada’s history, a history that includes the first people to reside in what is now known as Canada long before Christopher Columbus, French, British or Spanish settlers ever set foot on Northern American soil.

While the First Nations people have long lived in conflict with European settlers, they have, since 1912, been a part of the Calgary Stampede festival of celebration that starts the First Friday of July.

The Calgary Stampede, the brainchild of a Vaudeville promoter, is an important event for a beleaguered people. It has been a showcase for the First Nations peoples to show their dress, customs, and culture to the rest of the world.

This is something they were forbidden to do until the 20th-century.

During the Calgary Stampede, visitors are encouraged to walk through the First Nations village and view the tipis, each of which tells a dream or vision story, arranged in a traditional circle.

While there, visitors can experience the culture and ceremonies of the First Nations as represented by members of those nations.

It is an opportunity to ask about the tipi designs, their meanings, and the importance of the design and color. The tipi is sacred to the First Nations people. The designs painted on them connect them to the Spirit Beings in the world around them. They are considered to be a part of the “Sacred Bundles” that help to guide the First Nations people.

No person can use a design from one tipi without the permission of the owner. The right to use any of the designs is a privilege and must be formally transferred in a ceremony. The design protects the family inside and helps them to live happy, successful, and safe lives.

Indian Village courtesy

For the 10 days of Stampede, visitors will be able to watch the games, songs and daily prayer ceremonies important to the First Nations. In the Village, locate the outdoor stage where the Stampede Pow Wow is held. This is a dance competition, attracting some of the best native dancers, all competing for tens of thousands of dollars in prize money.

As you walk among the tipi, you can meet and talk with the Treaty 7 representatives, who are passionate about their heritage. The tipis will be filled with arts and crafts, some historical, some available for purchase.

Be curious and ask questions; learn about their fascinating past, present and hopefully vibrant future.

The First Nations people are anxious to share their stories.

Among those you may meet is the 2016 Indian Princess Mootwistsiinaki (Savanna Sparvier). As the representative of the Treaty 7 tribes, Princess Mootwistsiinaki has attended events as an ambassador for young people for the last year, creating a positive image of her people and speaking about their lives.

You can visit the Glenbow Museum in Calgary to learn more about the tipi and the vibrant people of the First Nations.

Indian Village History:

1912 – The first Indian Village at the Stampede was set up for six days. That first event involved about 1,800 First Nations people in attendance.

1923 – The Stampede became an annual event in July 1923. This year the tipis were located by the entrance to the Sun Tree Park.

1950 – A misunderstanding concerning the way the Indian Village was to be run caused the Stoneys to boycott the Stampede. At this time there were supposed to be 30 tipis, 10 each from the Siksika, Stoney and Tsuu T’ina.

The 10 Stoney tipis were probably not missed too much because of the torrential rainstorms, which caused many problems with all the Stampede events. The rain was so bad in fact, that the media ran stories about the Stoney “rain dances”.

The misunderstanding was cleared up after Stampede and the Stoney returned with their usual 10 tipis for the 1951 event

1960 – In the early 1960’s, the Kainai and Piikani tribes were recognized as official Indian Village participants.

1965 – The Village was flooded and many personal items and artifacts were destroyed. The Stampede compensated individuals for their losses

1974 – The Stampede expanded and the Indian Village moved to its current location at the south end of Stampede Park, along the Elbow River.

1996 – The Wild West was the theme for the Stampede; the Council Tipi, the demonstrations, and the Interpretive program made their first appearances at the Village.

This year’s visitors will find arts and crafts outlets and the “bannock bread” booth at the Sweetgrass Lodge. Bannock is a bread that became a staple of the indigenous diet after the arrival of the settlers.

In 2012, the Our History Our Legacy booklet was designed as a free giveaway specifically to celebrate the Stampede Centennial. It took about two years to compile the information and design the booklet.

The booklet was a joint project between volunteers and tipi owners to gather family stories and show some of the unique events and histories of the Indian Village. Try to find one in the village.

The Calgary Stampede Coca-Cola music stage will feature Canadian icon and Grammy Award winner Nelly Furtado, Canadian alternative rock musical duo USS and American singer/songwriter and multi-Grammy Award winner Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals. Halifax singer Ria Mae, who mixes pop, alternative and folk styles, and Billboard chart-topper Alx Veliz from Toronto will bring their sounds to the stage. Accomplished singers Madi Allen, Cole Malone, Jana McDonald, Brad Saunders and Carmen Lucia wrap up the remainder of the festival lineup. Go to the Stampede website for the full and final list of performers, showtimes, and dates.

General rodeo shows, music, and ticket information on the Calgary Stampede can also be found on the website. Read more about the Tsuu T’ina Nation at their Website. Read more about the Spotted Elk Center and Brown Bear Woman Camp at their Website.

Calgary Stampede

Dates: July 7-17, 2017
1410 Olympic Way SE,
Calgary, AB | T2G 2W1
Phone: (403) 261-0101

Where to Stay:

Grey Eagle Resort & Casino
3779 Grey Eagle Drive
Calgary, AB, T3E 3X8
(403) 385-3777

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Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award-winning writer and wanderer. She turns her thoughts to an eclectic mix of stories - from politics to sports. Restless by nature and anxious to experience new things, both in the real world and online, Jacquie mostly shares travel and culinary highlights, introduces readers to the chefs and creative people she meets and shares the tips, life and travel information people want to read.