Monday, April 4, 2016

Piikani Youth Rodeo continues to inspire

Josh Davis

Piikani Youth Rodeo’s winter season is going into its final week. Over the past two Wednesdays, March 23 and March 30, I witnessed the talent, camaraderie, and horsemanship of local youth, and listened to the words of wisdom offered by mentors in the aboriginal community. The Piikani Youth Rodeo is a local rodeo open to anyone between the ages of 5 and 21. Over 30 youth participated each week, on top of the tireless efforts of organizers, volunteers, and parents. Hosted at the Pincher Creek Agricultural Society's Horseshoe Pavilion and sponsored by the Aakom Kiyii Health Services Riding Program, each week of the rodeo featured talks with mentors. These mentors encouraged the youth to go for their dreams, and offered insight into possible.

Daxz Vance holding on for 8 - submitted video

On Wednesday March 23 the talk was presented by Pincher Creek’s Shaylee French. On Wednesday, March 30, it was presented by Calgary Stampede's 2016 Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm. On Wednesday, April 6 the Rodeo will have its final day until September of 2016.

Shaylee French has a history with the Piikani Youth Rodeo. She volunteered with them for the first time in September 2013, and is an accomplished barrel racer that I’m sure a lot of you recognize. French gave the youth insight into how to rein and kick with the horses, and stressed the importance of understanding the horse that you are riding on.

Shaylee French

“I’ve been barrel racing since I was little, through junior barrel racing and amateur rodeos and all of that, into a scholarship,” said French. “That pays for my school. It’s like having a hobby that pays for your education. You can make rodeo a career. It’s a lot of work, and it’s very expensive, but anything you put your mind to, you can definitely accomplish.” French said dedication and finding a connection with your animal is also very important in rodeo. 

“Also, coming forwards is Junior High School Rodeo, which starts at six I believe, and High School Rodeo, which starts at grade nine. So there’s a ton of opportunities for you guys going forward.”

During the next week’s talk, Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm, from the Blood Tribe talked about the process of becoming an Indian Princess. “I tried out in September for the Indian Princess Program, and it’s about a three week course,” explained Stiffarm. “During the three weeks we went to a few events and were silently judged. They wanted to see how we were acting, or reacting in a crowd, how we introduced ourselves, and how friendly we were. After that the competition was one weekend where we made a five minute speech in front of, about, I think it was 150 people. We danced. We had a riding assessment. And we also had an impromptu question and a personal interview.”

Stiffarm explained that her roles as Indian Princess are to go to pow wows and other events, and helps to promote the Calgary Stampede, Indian Village, and First Nation culture. “In the past couple months I’ve gone to Germany and Australia. I do a lot of speaking. This is my full time job right now.”

Following the presentations each week, organizer Tyrone Potts took a moment to stress the importance of staying away from drugs and alcohol. “Always remember, no drugs and no alcohol. It’s all about the decisions you make,” said Potts. “Don't be influenced by peer pressure. Don’t ever do anything that you feel isn’t comfortable, because lots of bad things could happen if you do. Especially in this day and age.”

Lorelai North Peigan works on all special projects for Aakom Kiyii Health Services. "I work with the onsite Organizer, which is Tyrone Potts," said North Peigan. "Riding is an activity that encourages healthier self esteem, and healthier relationships amongst children. My role is to ensure that we have the funding for the program." North Peigan said her role extended to setting up the sharing circle, and that she is responsible for setting up all of the speakers. "We co-ordinate this hand-in-hand with Tyrone. We usually try to meet twice a month, and address some issues month to month." North Peigan said that 30 kids is pretty ordinary for the winter rodeo, and that the summer rodeo usually runs at 40 to 45 kids.

"I just want to thank the parents for bringing the kids. Because without the parents behind this program, there'd be no children here," closed North Peigan.

Related: Piikani Youth Rodeo returns for 2016 season

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