At 19 years old, most people are still trying figure out what’s next after high school graduation, but one Siksika woman has decided to step out of her comfort zone and take a chance at something that will likely change her life forever. All Around Snake Women — Savannah Sparvier in English — is this year’s 2017 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess.
Every year the Calgary Stampede selects one young woman from Treaty 7 to act as an ambassador who will represent the Calgary Stampede Indian Village for an entire year. Treaty 7 is made up of five Nations: the Piikani, Siksika, Kainai, Tsuu’Tina and the Stoney Nakoda.
“It really has to be your own choice to be able to run for the Indian Princess,” – Savannah Sparvier
Sparvier will make numerous public appearances, travel the world and educate people on her rich, vibrant culture. Sparvier grew up in the Blackfoot community of Siksika Nation where she lived with her mom, older brother and sister in the same house since she was four years old.
Growing up, her parents weren’t together, so as a child Sparvier spent most of her weekends with her dad.
“My dad has two younger kids. As a child it was a lot more different going from his only child to suddenly the oldest of three children,” Sparvier says.
Since she was young, she remembers the Blackfoot traditions always playing a big role in her upbringing.
Being a descendent of the last traditional chief in Siksika, Duck Chief, Sparvier’s dedication to the Blackfoot way of life has been passed down through her family lineage.
Along with the Blackfoot teachings, Sparvier also grew up on the pow wow circuit, a series of gatherings that are held all over North America during the summer months.
Sparvier started dancing at age four as a ladies fancy shawl dancer. However, when she tried out for the junior girl princess title in Siksika, she decided to try out a new style of dancing, ladies traditional.
“My mom told me while I was dancing, she actually saw my late great grandmother, Emily Duck Chief dancing too,” she says.
This is a big reason into why she continues this specific style of dance today.
Sparvier now carries these memories and teachings as she moves forward as the Indian Princess.
This wasn’t her first time running for the title. Sparvier actually ran last year when she lost to Vanessa Stiffarm.
“Last year, I was really nervous and scared,” she says. “The first time around I did it for my mom because she wanted me to step out of my comfort zone.”
She says that last year her heart wasn’t in the competition and she believes that is the reason why she didn’t win.
“It really has to be your own choice to be able to run for the Indian Princess,” she adds.
Fast-forward a year later and Sparvier is proud to hold the title.
“Something changed, I didn’t want to do it for my family, I wanted to do it for myself,” she says.
That particular thought was the main thing that drove her through the competition.
Two months into her reign, Sparvier’s family couldn’t be happier.
Karalie Red Old Man, Sparvier’s older sister, knew she had what it took to win the competition.
“I am just really proud of her and all the she has accomplished,” Red Old Man said. “I’ve noticed that she has become more confident in herself in public.”
Sparvier admits that prior to the competition she thought of herself as a shy person. She explains that she would use to get anxiety at the thought of having to speak to complete strangers.
“It’s totally different when you’re with friends then when you are on your own, when you’re with your friends you have people who are there for you no matter what, so you never have to be afraid to be yourself.”
Mackenzi Mitchell is the vice president for the Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Sub-committee, but has been chaperoning the princesses for five years now. She says it is normal for the girls to start off their year shy and timid.
“I guarantee within 12 months you are going to see a totally different human,” Mitchell says.
With a remarkable year ahead of her, Sparvier says she is looking forward to seeing how much she will open up in the months to come.
“That’s one thing I’m most excited about is allowing myself to open up to new people and new experiences,” Sparvier says.
You can find Sparvier at numerous events around the city leading up to the Calgary Stampede, where she will welcome thousands of visitors to the Indian Village and showcase the Blackfoot culture that she is proud to represent.
The editor responsible for this article is Tayari Skey and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org