Monday, April 4, 2016

2016 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm visits Piikani Youth Rodeo

2016 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm at Pincher Creek's Horseshoe Pavilion

Josh Davis

On Wednesday March 30 Calgary Stampede’s 2016 Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm came to Pincher Creek as a special guest at the Piikani Youth Rodeo. Stiffarm is a 25-year-old from the Blood Tribe, and Pincher Creek was just one of many speaking opportunities she’s had around the world. She spent the afternoon riding, and inspiring the youth in attendance. Even the brief rain shower wasn’t enough to dampen spirits. Stiffarms role as Indian Princess is to promote the Calgary Stampede, and Indian Village, as well as to attend pow wows and other events to promote First Nation culture.

Stiffarm was born in Lethbridge, but was raised in the Missoula Montana in the United States. “However, I would always come home ever summer. I was always one the Blood Tribe, enjoying my grandparent’s horses.”

“It was a three week competition in the middle of September,” said Stiffarm of the selection process. “We did a lot of silent judging, we also had to do a horse riding assessment, we were judged on our dancing, we had to give a speech that they gave us a topic for, we had to answer an impromptu question, and then we had a personal interview.”

Stiffarm said that her competition was much younger than her. “They were straight out of high school. And I’m actually turning 26 on Monday.” Stiffarm gave her five minute speech in front of a crowd of 150 people. “The speech I gave was about what I could bring to the program, and how I could benefit the community. For horse riding they judged how comfortable we were on a horse, and how well we could control the horse. You have to at least know how to stay on a horse,” said Stiffarm.

“I’ve been around horses my whole life. My grandfather actually used to ride in the Stampede when he was younger. I’ve always wanted to be a part of Stampede, but I’m just used to going there every year, you know, watching rodeo on my own, mostly the chuck wagons, enjoying the rides. But this year I really wanted to get involved. I’ve been interested in the Indian Princess program for a while, and this year I said why not?”

“My impromptu question was on the importance of traditional wear during Stampede events. I said that it was okay to wear traditional wear because it’s who we are as First Nations. It’s how we define ourselves. We’re slowly moving into the future, but we still like to hold onto our traditional values as well. I still live my traditional ways every day.”

“I’ve actually been dancing since I’ve been walking,” explained Stiffarm. “I first started with fancy shawl, and then the past couple of years I’ve switched to jingle.” Stiffarm took a moment to explain the difference between the two. “The fancy shawl doesn’t make noise, and is more a representation of a butterfly. The jingle dress is a healing dress, it come from the Ojibwa Tribe. But most Tribes dance it as well, we just do our own interpretation of it.”

“It’s been amazing,” said Stiffarm of her experience as Indian Princess as a whole. “I’ve done a lot of travelling. Just this year I went to Australia, I got back from Germany a couple of weeks ago. I go to Toronto just at the end of April.” Stiffarm said that the new location for the Indian Village Is and important topic of conversation. For the 2016 Stampede, the Indian Village is located at Enmax Park, across the Elbow River and behind the Scotiabank Saddledome. “It’s just a little bit closer to the Saddledome. I’m really excited. I haven’t seen the full layout yet, but this weekend we’re going to be looking at it.”

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