CALGARY — The Calgary Stampede will have not one but seven parade marshals this year.
Chiefs of the Treaty 7 First Nations in southern Alberta have been chosen to ride at the head of the parade on July 7.
They include three chiefs from the Blackfoot Confederacy, three from the Stoney Nakoda Nations and the chief of the Tsuut’ina Nation.
Some 1,800 First Nations people took part in the first Calgary Stampede 105 years ago, president and chairman David Sibbald said Wednesday.
“We have had a strong relationship since the beginning of this great festival and we would like to build on that relationship going forward, making our connection even stronger,” he said.
Chief Darcy Dixon with the Bearspaw First Nation west of Calgary said the organizer of the first Stampede made a point of making sure indigenous people were able to participate.
“It wasn’t until 1912 that we had a person by the name of Guy Weadick who actually went to bat for the nations to talk to the politicians, so that the Indian agents would allow us to travel freely into our own country from the reservations we were put on,” he said.
Lee Crowchild, chief of the Tsuu’tina Nation just outside Calgary city limits, was beaming after Sibbald announced who the marshals would be.
“I’ve been involved with the Stampede since I was knee-high to a grasshopper in many different forms and this is actually kind of cool,” he said.
The 10-day western-themed festival kicks off with a parade through downtown Calgary and features rodeo events, chuckwagon races, concerts, midway games and carnival rides.
Singers Jann Arden and Paul Brandt shared parade marshal duties last year. Others who have been given the honour include ”Star Trek” actor William Shatner, astronaut Chris Hadfield, Olympic bobsledder Kaillie Humphries and country star Ian Tyson.