Storms left ENMAX Park’s new addition a muddy mess but people endured

One of the biggest changes for the Calgary Stampede in 2016 was the unveiling of the new Indian Village in ENMAX Park.

The Calgary Journal caught up with people exploring the newly renovated space, as well Indian Village staff to hear their thoughts about the new location, its third since its inception in 1912. Set along the Elbow River, the new and large space promised a tranquil setting for visitors. However, with such a rainy Stampede, the area received mixed reviews.

One man, Patrice Conus, said he loves the village, no matter the location. In fact, Conus travels from his home — 60 miles from Geneva, Switzerland — to the Stampede just for the rodeo and Indian Village.

“It’s incredible,” he said of the rich cultural heritage.

The village kept a full schedule for visitors, providing entertainment with a powwow competition, storytelling and teepees from the First Nations communities. The Bannock Booth kept busy with food ranging from Bannock Tacos to Bannock Burgers, as did the interpretive programs and craft booths with jewelry and keepsakes for sale.

One family clears water out of their teepee July 16 after heavy rain flooded the structure the night before. Families who brought their teepees had been staying in them during the Stampede, but rain forced them to take refuge in the Sweetgrass Lodge. Photo by Deanna TuckerFlorene and her husband Noran Calf Robe, of Siksika Nation, were one of many families who set up their teepee on the grounds for curious visitors to understand more about their traditions and values. Florene said July 14 that she and Noran were up to 1 a.m. some nights to inspect their teepee and prepare for the next day. She said she didn’t mind the long hours because the Stampede is only 10 days long.

The Calf Robe family began participating in the Calgary Stampede beginning in 1912, the event’s first year, when Ben Calf Robe set up the first teepee with a buffalo design. The design seen on the Calf Robe teepee at the grounds in 2016 is the same design that was used in 1912, something Calf Robe said, “many people aren’t aware of.” Florene said her son will inherit the teepee, and following him, one of his two sons will continue the tradition.

As for her opinion on the new location, Florene Calf Robe said she couldn’t complain. “I don’t mind it; I like it. Like everything else, it will take time to get used to.”

She said participants of the Indian Village would continue to improve how they use the space over time.

Joshua Crowshoe — one of the Indian Village staffers ­— said on July 16 that they were forced to move a fence set up beside the river because of the four-feet of erosion that had taken place due to heavy rains.

That same storm caused the cancellation of the powwow competition that Friday, losing a full afternoon of dancing. Competitors didn’t seem bothered by the delay, and promised the show would go on the final Saturday, “rain or shine,” which it did.

The teepees nearest to the Elbow River were flooded on Friday night (July 15) due to run-off towards the river, leaving families to set up sandbags in an effort to save their teepees from too much damage. They took refuge inside the Sweetgrass Lodge that night. Saturday afternoon, the families were still trying to push the excess water out from inside the teepees, leaving many of them closed to the public.

The powwow competition at ENMAX Park’s Indian Village took place July 13 to July 16 at the Calgary Stampede. During the show, audience members were invited to dance with the performers. Many people joined on July 14, including the man photographed, obviously having a great time. Photo by Deanna TuckerCrowshoe, who worked in the previous Indian Village location near the south entrance to the Stampede, had mentioned the new location seemed to be good, although he preferred the amphitheatre seating at the previous location for powwows. This being a minor issue for Crowshoe, he says he likes the new space and is confident over time that it will feel like home.

In the new location, the performance stage is on level ground. People crowd behind three rows of chairs available for seating, eager to catch a glimpse of the traditional dancers in their element. There isn’t anything to cover viewers from the rain, although the dancers are protected under a covering.

On Sunday, July 17, onlookers were invited into the covered area to keep out of the rain when a heavy downpour occurred during the final afternoon performance. With a much smaller dance floor, the powwow dancers still put on a spectacular performance for their thrilled guests.

Even being rained out, Florene Calf Robe says she isn’t concerned.

“What makes me happy is that we’re able to explain how our culture really is, instead of hearsay. We’re able to tell people how it really is.”

The Indian Village finished its first year in a new space on July 17, but the facilities will be open year-round to encourage community participation and the learning of First Nations culture.

Thumbnail by Deanna Tucker

dtucker@cjournal.ca