Indigenous culture returns to rodeo

Drummers from Driftpile keep the beat. Left-right, are Mikisiw Isadore-Bellerose, Sohkes Bellerose and Junior Coleman.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Indigenous culture returned for the first time in about 50 years to the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo held July 31 and Aug. 1.

The Treaty 8 Tipi Camp presented local communities with seven tipis in the northeast corner of the rodeo site as a dream of longtime rodeo supporter Frank Pratt.

“Most of our rodeo customers and supporters are Indigenous and we want to make them feel important and welcome,” Pratt says.

He notes it was about 50 years since a similar camp was previously set up.

“It was my dream to bring the First Nations back,” says Pratt, 92.

He remembers in the early years of rodeo – even before the Elks Pro Rodeo – that teams of First Nations people would travel by wagon from far and camp on the rodeo grounds about one week before the event.

Organizers were delighted and honoured to be part of the rodeo again.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for us to break down barriers of culture and to show we are all the same,” says Trina Okimaw-Scott, executive assistant of Driftpile Cree Nation.

“We hope it only gets bigger and better.”

She says it’s also an ideal time to teach the Indigenous culture and traditions to other cultures.

Organizers were approached about two weeks before the rodeo to host the camp, she says.

People from Driftpile, Sucker Creek and Whitefish and Atikameg participated, says Okimaw-Scott, who trusts participation will grow in the coming years.

Seven tipis were part of the camp. Organizers were delighted and honoured, saying it provided them an opportunity to break down barriers.
Moose meat dries on a rack during a sunny day. Left-right, are Crystal Jackson and Garrison Jackson of Whitefish. Several displays of the Indigenous way of life were presented to anyone wanting to learn and experience the culture.
Atikameg history was on display in one of the tipis. Left-right, are Alexis Thunder and Marina Thunder of Atikameg.
Dancers perform in colourful regalia. Left-right, are Tina Isadore of Driftpile, Lisa Willier of Sucker Creek, and Isadore’s daughter, Blossom Isadore-Bellerose, 7.
Indigenous crafts were on display. Left-right, are artist April Willier, of Fine Indian Products in Sucker Creek, showing items with Pearl Auger of Atikameg.


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