This spring, the bison were returned to Banff National Park after over 100 years.  On April 6, a celebration was held at Mount Royal University to celebrate their homecoming.

On the same evening, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people gathered around the buffalo sculpture adjacent to Fort Calgary at the beginning of NewScoop’s Right Relations Story Circle.

Camille (Pablo) Russell led us in a smudging ceremony and graced us with a song from a vision quest . . . the sound of the drum beat, ringing in our ears, caused us to pause.  He also shared a story about the buffalo that gathered and lingered around us like smoke from the smudge.

Pablo asked, “Had we ever noticed that buffalo only have fur around their faces and shoulders, the front part of their bodies?”  He explained that this is because, when a storm is brewing, the buffalo face it head on. They position themselves directly into the oncoming wind and rain or snow.  Pablo encouraged us to take a similar forward facing stance, fearless in receiving the challenges that come our way.

With this encouragement in mind, we gathered at Fort Calgary to share stories. We were surprised by their goodness, as we listened for signs of change.  Indeed, we are moving forward in our quest for Right Relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. We heard stories that are inclusive and equitable, just and flourishing.

pam smudgingPam Beebe, a member of the Kainai Nation and Indigenous Strategist with Vibrant Communities Calgary, shared that this work is important because there is so much hard, sad and desperate media about Indigenous people.  As an active participant on social media, she goes through phases where she shuts down, not forwarding any Facebook links or tweets that are negative. She only supports and follows stories of  new beginnings and forward steps, stories that are worth celebrating and replicating.

These were the kinds of stories that were shared at the Right Relations Story Circle.  Monique Fry shared with a kind of amazement that she gave “the sermon” at Knox Presbyterian Church.  As an Indigenous person, Monique was surprised and pleased to be given the opportunity to speak in this way at a church.

Jesse Salus introduced us to his website, The History of a Road, exploring the complicated and important history of the Weaselhead and the history of interactions between the R and Calgary.  A number of people mentioned the renaming of Langevin Bridge to Reconciliation Bridge.  One mother of a grade two student shared how surprised she was when most of the children in her child’s class had heard of residential schools.  NewScoop will be sharing these stories and others over the coming months.

The last activity at the event was to imagine that we came together again in five years and told stories that began with, “You won’t believe it but  __________.”   The participants were invited to complete the statement with their best imagining for the future.

Some great statements were expressed.

“You ‘ll never believe it but the Calgary Flames acknowledge they are on Treaty Seven land at every game.”

“You’ll never believe it but there have been no murders of Indigenous women in the last six months. “

“You’ll never believe but we just had a hockey tournament between the Lakeview Community Association and the.”

And guess what?  The bison made an appearance again. Pablo’s closing statement was “You will never believe it but there are herds of buffalo on the Prairies again!”





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