Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Drive Home

The mission: get the car returned by 6:30pm.

After a late night movie in Calgary, I got a few winks back in Siksika and then woke up to a vividly colored sunrise. Can't believe I've been missing all these sunsets--that's what I get for being a night owl! I was ready to go and on the road by 6:30am.

As I headed south off the reserve, and over the last few days, I kept telling myself, "I can't be a stranger." Three years is too long to be away from Siksika. I also need to become more acquainted w/ my Scottish roots as well. Looks like I'm doomed to travel to beautiful areas---could be worse, right? :)

A claim to fame for the small farming town of Vulcan (South of Siksika) is, well, their name. Since the township's name is from a race of people only Trekkies would know, it looks like they were milking it for what's worth: "Live Long & Prosper".

The road leading up to the Rockies

As I approached the border at Kingsgate at around 11:00am, I was making some excellent time. I wasn't even worried when I saw a line at the border crossing. After about a 30min wait, I approached the Border Patrol Officer. I confessed to having a 6-pack (Big Rock Honey Brown Ale), and having a bad time at a border crossing over a decade ago (this was due to some racist Border Patrol Officers). I knew that when he asked, "have you had trouble crossing the border before?" I was in for some crap.

"Would you please pull forward and park to the left, and wait for an officer," he said. D'oh. They were ruining my schedule!! I had to go into the Border Patrol Office and fill out a Declaration card and answer some odd questions---where was I born? What was my major? Do you have any tatoos? (?!?!? tatoos?? man, what's up with that?)

Two officers went through my vehicle for about 20min. They were nice and atleast didn't throw all my crap on the ground. In 1994, my brother, cousin Leon, and I were stopped at a middle-of-nowhere Border Station during a trip to Rocky Boy (for their pow wow). These bastards, totally went through our vehicle, threw everything on the ground, and then told us to re-pack the vehicle--racist, ego-trippin, bastards! Ok, sorry for straying....

....these Officers were atleast cordial. My vehicle wasn't left in a shambles. I didn't want to question them on why they stopped me, or go all up in their faces---I didn't want to ruin my schedule (or get arrested and sent to Guantanamo!).

Other than this stop, the rest of my trip was uneventful, and I made it to the rental office with 30min to spare! Another trip was complete.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Crowfoot & Blackfoot Crossing Monuments

Blackfoot Crossing Monument

On my last day in Siksika, I tried to cram as much as I could into my last day. Something I wanted to do was head back toward Blackfoot Crossing (site of where Treaty 7 was signed & where the new Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park is). I wanted to visit some of the monuments for the signing of Treaty Seven as well as see some of the monuments related to one of our great chiefs, Chief Crowfoot.

In this area are several monuments/memorials. All of these monuments are situated upon the ridge overseeing the Bow River Valley and the spot where Treaty Seven was signed, Blackfoot Crossing. The first place I visited was the Crowfoot memorial. From the Crowfoot Memorial, one can see the "tipi top" of the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park.

View from Crowfoot Memorial With BCHP In The Distance

The next monument I visited was the site of Chief Crowfoots last tipi campsite. This monument has a plaque and one can see the tipi ring (circular rock formation) of Chief Crowfoot's tipi.

Rocks Left At Crowfoot Tipi Monument

Blackfoot Crossing Monument Plaque

The road out to Blackfoot Crossing is named the One Gun Trail. Chief One Gun was another important Siksika Chief.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nights In Calgary

While up in Siksika, I also made some trips off the reserve to Calgary. Calgary is an hour west of Siksika Nation. During this trip I made my first visit to the "Red Mile". This is a stretch of 17th Avenue west of the Calgary Flame's Saddle Dome arena. This is where Flames fans go crazy when their beloved hockey team does well. This stretch of road is loaded w/ pubs, restaurants, and clubs.
A Calgary Community Garden

Also able to squeeze in a merengue/salsa lesson at the Don Quixote Tapas Bar. The lesson was taught by Marcos Ruvelo from Cuba. He was pretty funny, and taught us a cool merengue move (this took most of the class). We then tried dancing this merengue move to salsa. I must admit that I had some difficulties dancing this move in salsa. Oh well, had some fun.
Salsa at Don Quixote's

Spent a Monday night checking out some classic rock n' roll with: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. This was the first time Tom Petty and his crew ever made it to Calgary, and you could tell. The sold out crowd at the Saddle Dome went INSANE for Petty. I'm not a huge fan of Petty, but he played all the songs I knew and liked as well as a Traveling Wilbury's song. It was pretty awesome. Thanks for the tickets Trudy!

Had a mini-family reunion at Glenmore Park on one evening. Our "tribe", consisting of tons of kids, took over an area of the park and a few barbecues. On the menu....well, lots of meat. :) It was so good to see all of my cousins and their awesome kids (I can't begin to pretend to know the names of all the kids! It was so good to see so many Blackfoot kids.)

A Screamin' "10"

"10" and Mom

My last night was spent w/ my cousin Letty, and we checked out the T'suu Tina's new casino and had dinner there. After hanging out the casino, we caught a late movie, Pineapple Express. I knew I'd be hatin myself in the morning for the late night, but had a fun time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Siksika Fair

As I've mentioned before, I scheduled this trip around salsa! I have missed a few classes before, so I wanted to plan my next trip around salsa class (which is every Tues). My window appeared in August in that we had a week off in between Beginning Salsa III and Intermediate Salsa I. So, I took this opportunity to head up to Siksika and see everyone and hang out (and to see the newest member of the Yellow Fly family: "10" a.k.a. Mr. Tenisyn). This window happened to coincide with the weekend when our tribe (Siksika Nation) has it's annual pow wow: Siksika Nation Fair.

I wasn't arguing. I like to pow wow, and hanging out at our own pow wow was fine with me. This year's pow wow was from 8/7 - 8/10. The Host Drum for this year's pow wow was Black Lodge (a Blackfeet/Yakama drum from White Swan, WA). Black Lodge is an awesome drum group which has been around for decades. I listened to them when I started singing.
Black Lodge Singers

Pow Wow and Hand Games Arenas

After hanging out for a little, I then went into "drum-groupie" mode. I went around and listened to each drum as they each sang. After listening to all these awesome singers, I became ancy. I wanted to sing, or atleast dance. Unfortunately, I totally spaced and forgot to pack my Grass Dance outfit, so I was delegated to being a "drum groupie". Oh well--there's nothing wrong with listening to good singin'.

Now our pow wow happens to coincide with a new pow wow in Cree country, Enoch. They recently opened a casino, and their pow wow has become big. So, some drums and singers make their way up north during this weekend. Our pow wow still rocks though.

While checking out the pow wow, I also got to judge some of the Men's categories. There were some great dancers, and it was hard to choose my favorites. Seeing some old timers gettin' down out there, made me feel guilty for not dancing (lame, lame, lame of me!).

Warrior Tribe Singers

In Search Of The "Cabaret" and 49

Something I've never heard of for a "post pow wow" activity is a cabaret. I guess its a dance type get together with a DJ. This particular one was located off-reserve in the border town of Carseland. Made it out to this small town, but this little town was totally dead. We couldn't find anything! Ended up shooting pool at a local haunt, and that was fun.

Later in the evening (ummm...some time past 1am), we heard word of a 49 back on the rez. With this news and rough directions of where to go, we made our way in search of the 49. It sounded like the 49 was some where near where I went fly fishing the other day, on the West End, so I made my way over there. As we arrived to the area, it was pitch black and no one was around. Took this opportunity to hang out, and look at the sky. While standing on the prairie and looking at the sky, several meteors were spotted. I totally forgot that the Perseids meteor shower always peaks around the time of our pow wow. Very cool!
Raining Perseids

While watching meteor showers saw a caravan of headlights in the distance. They weren't coming toward us. Looks like I misjudged the rendezvous. Anyway, made our way to where everyone was. I must admit, I was a little wary, since our mode of transportation was the little Prius, and we were doing some off-roading. We made it though.

49 was alright. Felt pretty old, cuz there were lots of kids, boozin', and cow flops. We ended up staying for only a little while. And yes, the Prius made it out no worse for wear! :)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hanging Out In Siksika

Yellowfly Household

After the long travel day yesterday, and then staying up late to watch some NAIG(North American Indigenous Games) highlights, I got some decent sleep for my first real day in Siksika. I started the day out by going to the Deerfoot Sportsplex. After no exercise during the long drive yesterday, and a Tim Horton's donut & "coffee" drink, I felt the need to work off some calories, and this is where the Deerfoot came in. I think I've only been here once in my life (played a little bit of ball w/ my cousin Trudy----many many many years ago).
I walked in acting like I was a local, and asked "where's da gym"? I ended up going to the front office, and then was pointed to the gym. The exercise room was fairly small, but it had some nice equipment (treadmill, ellipticals, free weights, nautilus machine, etc.) I ended up getting a good 1+ hr in. I then checked out the rest of the Sportsplex. There is a big basketball gym, and there was also a hockey rink. I was totally surprised to find I was the only one using the facilities.

After showering up at Deerfoot, I made my way to the Band Office for some business---to pick up a couple of Distribution cheques which were waiting for me ($350, come to papa!). While there, I felt a little self-conscious driving my Prius around because the Band Office was packed and there were tons of people outside hanging out. I quickly felt better when another car stole all the attention---a bright blue Ferrari with the license plate: REVEAL. Wow, a Ferrari in Siksika! One tall and lanky Siksikaqwan walked by the Ferrari and said, "Welp, I need to move my car", he then laughed a smile at a friend nearby. I was hoping to cash my check, but the Bank was totallly packed--apparently, it was payday, and there was a line all the way down the hall at the bank. I canned that idea, and decided to make my way to the next place on my list: the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park (see separate blog entry).

Other places of interest I frequented were Old Sun Community College. This building houses our college, post secondary administration, Aitsiniki media, the Reztaurant (run by my cousin Christopher Eagle Ribs and his wife Tanya), and a library. This is an old building and its roots stem from a much darker time when it was originally a residential school--religiously-run school (residential or "boarding" school) which was a place where kids had to go to school after being taken from their parents. Generations of Native Peoples in Canada and the United States were scarred by this governmental policy whose goal was to assimilate Natives into the mainstream society.

Ok, lets talk about fly fishing, sunsets, and food!
After the Saturday session at the pow wow, I snuck away for some fly fishing on the Bow. It was alright. It was a bit windy, and I was driving a Prius on dirt roads. I found a spot on the West End of the reserve a ways downstream of The Spring. I was able to wade out to a stone island and cast to a few different runs, but to no avail. Didn't see anything. I did manage to pick a few choke cherries though--yummm. Just missed the saskatoon season--oh well.

One mission I was given was to get an auntie (Catherine Sleigh) to make some of her world famous bannock, a Blackfoot delicacy. Catherine didn't disappoint--Mmmmmm!

Bannock Bread

Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park

The Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park (BCHP) is fairly new and has been open for just a year or so. This is Siksika's newest endeavor into the museum business, and by first impression, it looks like a good start. The BCHP building is architecturally stunning. The building site is along the Bow River Valley near the historic Blackfoot Crossing site (where the Treaty 7 was signed). The building is perched along a ridge of the valley, and cuts into part of the canyon wall, and yields a great view of the river and valley. The design is culturally unique in that it employs many Siksika features in the building structure. The building is laid out like half of a big teepee, with the other half open and facing the valley. Large glass windows offer awesome views.

No "Indian discounts" for admission here. I didn't mind though. It was only $10, and I was supporting a local endeavor for our people. I feel bad, and have to apologize now, but as soon as I entered the museum, I totally went into tourist-mode and had my camera holstered and ready to go. I also asked lots of questions about the place. After the initial adjustments, I then checked out the museum.

I was impressed. This was definitely a world-class tourist destination. No punches were pulled, and you can see that in "most" of the museum. Being nitt-picky as can sometimes be, I did see a few cosmetic items which could be improved. I noticed some dust, dirt, bugs at certain areas. I also saw that some of the painting and dry wall looked to be unfinished at some places. Ok, that's it for that, they were very minor, and can be easily fixed.

I ended up doing a quick scan of the museum (which is on the bottom floor---no photos allowed), and then headed upstairs to the theater--a show was starting at 12:30pm. This was a movie about the Siksika and was very good and professional-looking.

After the movie, I decided to grab lunch at the cafeteria. I had a bison burger and fries with gravy---it was a huge meal and I couldn't finish it. To work off some calories, I then went for a little "hike". Outside the museum is an eco-walk down the hill from the museum. There are a couple of things to check out along the path: "authentic tee pee" lodging, choke cherries, and a dig where mud housing was found.

After the hike, I then went back into the museum (to cool off first) to check out the museum more thoroughly). There were quite a few exhibits and I checked out most of them. i must admit that I didn't read everything. I think I'd need more than a few hours to go through everything. I mainly chcked out most of the exhibits, and then watched several of the video presentations. After checking out the museum I then made my way up to the gift shop and dropped some more i/do?\ bumop (money) on various things.

A couple of other things, there is a library on site at the museum, but it was closed. I would definitely like to come back and check this out. Like I said earlier, one other feature which is offered is sleeping in an "authentic teepee". I don't think I'd do this, but FYI, the rates are something like $370!

All in all, I liked the BCHP, and would like to make it back and spend more time to thoroughly explore what is offered. I hope it continues to flourish and help spread the word about us Siksika people.