Elder urges youth to take part in Banff Indian Days
Stoney Nakoda elder Roland Rollinmud stood in a field with his back to Sleeping Buffalo (Tunnel Mountain) sharing the story of Banff Indian Days with a group of Nakoda high school students from Morley Community School.
His single goal was to encourage students to join in this year’s festivities, scheduled for this summer (the dates have not yet been chosen), as a way to preserve Nakoda culture and carry it forward into the future.
“This year you can come and participate too. I want you to carry on our traditions. If you come, you will discover something,” Rollinmud told the students.
As a formal event, Banff Indian Days began in 1894 and continued through to 1978 when politics brought about its end.
For most of the event’s history, founded initially to entertain Banff tourists, it was attended strictly by the Nakoda who would come together at the meadows at the base of Cascade Mountain to take part in a parade, storytelling, horse and foot races, a powwow and a rodeo.
Other aboriginal Plains groups joined the Nakoda for the festival in the 1960s. “Everybody quit coming here because of politics and those events don’t mix. That’s when we lost a very valuable connection and it’s something we should be proud of,” he told the students.
While attending The Banff Centre in 1985, Rollinmud dreamed of bringing Banff Indian Days back, but in the context of how the Nakoda used to meet for four days each summer long before Banff Indian Days.
Working with Parks Canada employee Dennis Herman, Rollinmud finally achieved his goal in 2004, changing the tone and nature of the festival, quietly steering Banff Indian Days back to its cultural roots.
“About 300 years ago was the real occurrence, when there was no rodeo,” Rollinmud told the students. “It was a cultural gathering.”
Rollinmud later told the Outlook, “And coming here, this is a healing ground. For four days, Morley was practically empty. You wouldn’t find anybody on the reserve, but now nobody knows. The Calgary Stampede has taken over. Powwows have taken over and we are forgetting our ancestors.”
Rollinmud works to include Nakoda youth in all that he does to help ensure their culture continues.
“It’s really important to share the knowledge of our ancestors of why Banff Indian Days was a part of our tradition our culture. They are the preservers of our history.”
The difference, Rollinmud said, is he grew up immersed in the Nakoda culture, whereas many of today’s youth don’t.
“What we need to add is to share a quality of who we really are so they can be proud of themselves. That’s why I’m bringing culture to them, so they can be proud of their heritage.”
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