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Doctor Elder Reg Crowshoe Reflects

Doctor Elder Reg Crowshoe

"Tribes would come together in the summer, where the Bow and the Elbow meet, before there was a city here named Calgary. This was one of our major traveling areas, to follow the buffalo and hunt elk, moose and pick berries. We had our summer ceremonies here. It was an important gathering place. When we signed Treaty 7, we said we moved onto reserves and we let the rest of the Country go so that Canada would settle the country with all the people coming in at that time. Before we moved onto the reserves, we used to live in teepees and travel by horseback, we had our bows and arrows, our spears, and we had our ceremonies. When we signed the treaties we got put on the reserves, the government wanted us to start become farmers, ranchers and start planting crops. Residential schools were opened and then all the children, especially children around your age, children were brought to the residential school. Taken from their families and brought into the residential schools. At that time, when you would go to school in September, you would leave your house or your home in September. You would be able to go home for about a week at Christmas time and then you go back to the residential school and then you didn’t leave the residential school until Easter. You would have about a week break at Easter and then go back to the residential school until June. For 10 months you would be taken away from your families.

At the time we signed the treaties and had to go onto the reserves, that was the time we had to go to residential schools, we couldn’t live in teepees anymore, we couldn’t put on our Indian outfits anymore, they didn’t allow us to sing our songs, we couldn’t speak our language, we had to speak English and if I was going to go and visit another reserve, I would have to go to an Indian agent at that time and apply for a permit. This permit, once I applied for it, it would take anywhere up to ten days to get approval. It allowed me to leave the reserve for another reserve to visit my relatives. And then after the time I put on the permit, if I say I was asking to go to the Kainai reserve to visit my relatives then in 4 days then I got to come back, back on time. So the government used permit system to allow us to go and visit each other. We had to start farming and ranching. So, the old people got together in them days and they used to talk about how they were free to travel from the South Saskatchewan to the Yellowstone region. All they had left at the time was the stories and telling their young people about these stories. When they were able to meet with their young people after they left residential school. At that time, we were pretty well settled on the reserves. We had to settle into a different way of life, we couldn’t live in our teepees anymore. We had to move into houses and so on….

By then Calgary was already a city. Guy Weadick and the Big Four started coming together. Once they announced that they were going to have a Stampede, a lot of people from the reserve wanted to come to the Stampede. But the Indian Agent wouldn’t allow any permits out to allow our people to go to the Stampede. So we were excluded from coming to the Stampede. At the time, Guy Weadick and the Big Four were starting to plan the Stampede; they invited the First Nations, the Piikani, Kainai, Siksika, T’suu Tina, and the Stoneys. They invited them into the Stampede but the Indian Agent wouldn’t let anyone come to the Stampede. Now, the old timers still told stories about living in teepees and showing their culture to the young people but they couldn’t show their culture while they were reserves because the government changed their way of life.

Until, the Stampede sent an invitation. Then they realized they could start telling the young people about their culture, about their teepees, about their outfits, about their way of life. Their dances and their songs. So they saw an opportunity at that time.
And they met with Guy Weadick.

Guy Weadick went to Ottawa, to the politicians in Ottawa because the politicians in Ottawa were the ones that set the control to keep the Indian people on the reserves. So he went to Ottawa to ask permission from the politicians in Ottawa to change the some of the rules on the reserve so that they would allow the Indian people to come on to the Stampede.

At that time, when he came back, the Indian agents were all notified and then they allowed the Indians to come to the Stampede. Once they were allowed them to come to the Stampede, then they set conditions on how they could come to the Stampede. They said they can’t use their teepees and they can’t use their way of life, they can’t use their songs, they can’t use their outfits in the Stampede. WE want them to go to the Stampede to show that they are good farmers. To show that they are good ranchers. They can come to the Stampede to show their vegetables, their potatoes, their carrots, their crops, and their wheat. But they couldn’t show their way of life. They could come to the Stampede to show their cattle, their calves, show their horses. They can show whatever we see at the Agricultural building. That was the only way that the Indian Agent would allow the Indians to come to the Stampede.

So Guy Weadick went out and met with the agents and at that time he asked for the conditions to change. But whether he had an agreement or not, I never heard. The stories that I heard from the old people, I never heard if he had an agreement. The stories that I heard from the old people, is that they never made an agreement. The old people say “Well, Guy Weadick sent the invitation to come in your teepees and the Indian Agents aren’t going to stop you.

So, that’s how the Indian people starting coming back to Calgary, to the Bow River, to their old camping grounds, to be a part of the Stampede. When we were part of the Stampede, then the old timers said well that they wanted to be good partners with the people that started Stampede because it allowed the old people to show their young people how they lived in the old days, to show them how teepees were made. They showed them how to live in teepees, they showed them how to sing and how to hit a Pow Wow drum, what the dances meant, they were able to use their language and wear their traditional outfits and cook their traditional foods.. They were able to bring back their old ways of life. That was what was important to the elders to give back to our young people. The Stampede gave that opportunity the camping grounds to come and camp here and work with the Stampede so that we can show your culture to the rest of the world. Even though the Stampede was allowing all the visitors that came to the Stampede to come see the Indian culture, But on the other side, the elders wanted to come to the Stampede because they were able to start living as they did in the old days and teach the young people.

So those are the beginnings of the Stampede that I heard from our Elders on our reserve, the Peigan Reserve."

(Crowshoe, R. Personal communication. February 23, 2006


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