Former Calgary Stampede Centennial Indian Princess shares her hopes and history
Sitting comfortably on her couch cuddled up with her little white dog, Lola, Amelia Crowshoe seems like a regular 25-year-old woman, smiling and ready to chat
However, once she begins to speak it’s easy to see why Crowshoe was selected to be the Calgary Stampede’s Centennial Indian Princess. The glowing young woman speaks with such eloquence it is easy to become entranced by her every word.
A graduate of the University of Calgary’s communication and culture program, Crowshoe was crowned as Stampede royalty in September 2011. Throughout her reign she attended hundreds of events as an ambassador for not only the Stampede, but for member nations of Treaty Seven.
Photo by April LambCrowshoe said that she grew up caught between two worlds.
“I didn’t know what it was like to live in a city until I was seven, or eight,” she said.
She grew up on the Piikani reserve, near Fort Macleod. She grew up among friends and family, coming from two of the largest families on the reserve.
“It was just nice to have all those cousins, and have all those friendships, and to be with my family and to be with my own kind of people,” she said. “I took that for granted because I didn’t know what it was like to not be on a reserve, and when I moved off, it was a big culture shock for me.”
Crowshoe moved from the reserve with her mom and sister when her mom decided to go back to school. Afterwards Crowshoe and her family moved around Alberta until finally settling in Calgary where she attended high school.
Although she now has an easier time coming and going between the city and her home reserve, she said it used to cause her a lot of conflict, especially during high school.
She said: “When I went home [to the reserve] they thought that I was from the city. I felt like an outsider, and high school was the first time I’d ever felt that.”
Crowshoe said that she thinks because of her people’s oral history, and the communal nature of their society they behave differently and think differently.
“It was kind of a culture shock for me to come off the reserve — social norms are different, people behave differently.
“I was totally on my own path and I had to figure things out for myself,” she said.
Photo courtesy of Amelia CrowshoeCrowshoe did just that. She graduated from U of C in 2009. From there she returned to Piikani to do communications work at the Piikani Traditional Knowledge Services Centre. Between that, and working on a traditional governance model project, Crowshoe was incredibly busy over the next two years. When her project got cancelled she decided to try living in Vancouver with her best friend, Alex Polutnik.
The pair both ended up moving back to Calgary. It was while the two were visiting the Indian Village at the 2011 Calgary Stampede that Polutnik suggested Crowshoe run.
“When I was growing up I wanted to be the Indian Princess, but between school and work and everything else I had kind of forgotten about it,” Crowshoe said.
Crowshoe said at that point in her life, having just moved back to Calgary and doing contract communications work, she finally had the time to volunteer as Indian Princess.
Polutnik said he wasn’t surprised at all when his friend was crowned Indian Princess.
“She’s extremely qualified, she’s very well spoken, she’s driven, and she’s passionate about what she does and what she believes in. So it was really a no-brainer,” he said.
While Crowshoe was Indian Princess she became close with the other Stampede princesses, especially the queen, Candice Lee, who she plans moving in with this coming March.
After spending the past year together travelling, and attending cultural events on behalf of the Stampede, the two girls have created a lifelong bond.
“Anyone that gets to meet [Crowshoe] and learn from her and her family are very fortunate people,” Lee said. “They’re brilliant, and very welcoming.
“I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for her and my friendship. She’s just an amazing friend, and has treated me so well in the past year,” she said.
Now that a new Indian Princess has been crowned, Crowshoe has been relieved of her duties, but is still working on representing her community, and her people.
Besides doing communications contract work, Crowshoe also works with Calgary 2012 on a project, called Making Treaty Seven, which has a goal to increase education on Treaty Seven.
“A lot of people who come into Calgary don’t really know the history of first nations, or the fact that there is a treaty that was signed with the people in this area, or what that means,” Crowshoe said. “It’s at the heart of our governance, the heart of our history, that’s when everything changed for us.”
The final outcome of the project will be a reenactment of Treaty Seven that anyone can take part in.
As for Crowshoe’s future, she hopes to study law and help the First Nations community.
“On my reserve we’re having all these problems because we have no representation, no people that can represent us who are sensitive to our cultural needs and sensitive to the fact that we think differently,” she said.