Stampede has come and gone. yahoo.

For another 365 days, the Calgary Stampede has ridden off into the sunset. It will return. Make no mistake. It is an institution, a part of our Calgary culture that rides in every year on the first Friday of July to spend 10 days reminding everyone, residents and visitors alike, of our wild west roots planted deep into the prairie soil and our cowboy heritage ridin’ free on the range.

And as we don our blue jeans and cowboy hats, with Stampede comes the contradictions and the disparities woven into our social fabric. A man leans against a lamppost too drunk to walk another step. Another vomits on the sidewalk oblivious to the mess he’s making for someone else to clean up. A hundred dollars lets you jump the line-up at Cowboys’ giant beer tent on the Stampede Park if you don’t want to wait the 3 hours to pay the $30 entrance fee the hordes are waiting to pay to gain entrance. Amidst the midway rides and flashing lights, a fight breaks out on Stampede Park and three men are taken to hospital with stab wounds, one of them in serious condition. A car rolls over on a city roadway, alcohol plays a role. A threesome have sex on the street near a favourite downtown Stampede watering hole, and the city is polarized in its response.

And I walk down the street towards my office one morning, stepping over empty beer cans left by late night partiers, listening to the sounds of a live band entertaining the folks who’ve come out to enjoy free pancakes and bacon at the annual Stampede Breakfast kitty-corner to my office building. They are ubiquitous, these Stampede Breakfasts. They appear on every street corner and parking lot throughout the city over the course of the 10 days of Stampede. They speak of community, of people gathering together to share a meal and conversation and good spirits in the morning.

I am enjoying the music as I cross the street towards my office building. My thoughts are on the community-spirit of Stampede when I spy a man lying on the sidewalk. He is oblivious to the noise and frivolity. He is lying silently on his side, eyes closed as I approach.

I kneel down and ask him if I can help.

“Do you want me to call the DOAP team?” I ask. DOAP stands for Downtown Outreach Addictions Program. It is operated by Alpha House and provides mobile assistance to help vulnerable persons in our community get to a safe place.

The man lying on the sidewalk nods his head yes.

While I wait for the team to arrive I try to engage the man in conversation. I want to keep him awake. “What is your name?” I ask.

“Michael” he mumbles. “I want to go to Alpha House,” he adds.

“The DOAP team is on their way,” I tell him.

He looks up at me. His eyes are dark, red-lined. He licks his lips.

“Let me die,” he says.

My heart stops for a moment. I feel his pain. His sorrow. His despair.

“I can’t,” I tell him.

“Let me die,” he repeats.

And I am saddened.

His roots are buried deep into the prairie soils. His roots are native to the wide open plains that surround our city. They run deeper than the cowboy trails that brought white settlers westward long ago paving over centuries of First Nations roaming proud and strong and free on these lands.

No more.

He lies on the hard, cold concrete that covers the lands where once his forbears rode free and pleads with a stranger to let him die.

And on the other corner, country and western music blares, bacon sizzles on the grill and sweet maple syrup runs freely onto pancakes as Stampede revellers enjoy breakfast in the sun.

“This land is my land, this land is your land.”

And no where in these lands is there a place for Michael to find a road back to his roots. Buried beneath generations of cultural genocide precipitated by white man’s journey across these lands we call home, he has lost himself to a past he cannot remember and does not dare to see.

Yahoo! Stampede has come to town reminding us of our heritage. For 10 days, cowboys and cowgirls roam the streets partaking of the wild west parties and celebrations of our past. Forgotten are the buffalo ranging free and warriors riding proud and strong who fell beneath the weight of our desire to own the lands they once roamed free.

There was a man lying on the street. He reminded me that not all our history is built on the proud conquest of the wild west. It is also built on the conquering of the people who once claimed this land as their land.



26 thoughts on “Stampede has come and gone. yahoo.

  1. well, said …

    well, sad …

    our country – our governments and previous generations – have been getting it wrong for nearly 400 years

    the key is education – and food, and being lifted out of poverty, or giving first nations Canadians an opportunity to lift themselves – and a good place to start would be getting our city and our Stampede to embrace first nations as equally valuable partners in community building, in celebration of history but also in celebration of a new and different future. It shouldn’t be an overnight quick fix, but it shouldn’t take 400 years either …

    and kudos to Alpha House …



    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Mark. And yes, education is true — for all of us. I think one of the challenges most First Nations face is the incredible discrimination and condemnation they face from those of us who are not First Nations. — and yes, celebration of all things past and new. Hugs


  2. Louise, what a powerful, sad observation to your holiday. May I ask what happened to the man? Did the DOAP arrive in time to save/help him? I love that you are like an angel who looks after so many people who are downtrodden in the midst of merry-making and you take the time to connect with with kindness with them on a human level, with your special brand of care. You are an angel here. I am grateful to know you. ♥

    Liked by 2 people

    • Actually Yvonne, an ambulance arrived — someone else had called but walked away so I didn’t know. One of the things we’re trying to do is get people to call DOAP as in most instances, they are better equipped to handle these situations with compassion and care. Thank you for your beautiful words. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We have the same problem in Australia in that the first Australians are the ones suffering the most and lagging behind us economically, in health and in education. It is so sad and I do not know what the answer is.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When writing about the stampede, curious you make no mention of the animal victims
    who paid the ultimate price to entertain the mindless hoards who attend this spectacle
    of animal abuse. Do their lives not matter? This year 3 more horses died. Since 1986 93 animals have died at this event.
    and there are literally thousands of animals used behind the scenes to perfect the “cowboys”
    rodeo skills. These figures do not include animals that were injured or killed in these practises.
    If people want to get drunk, fight, and stab themselves thats their choice. The animals don’t
    have a choice nor do they have a voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. and every time you eat a steak, a piece of chicken, bacon or fish …. ?

    I’m no eager-beaver rodeo fan, but when I do I observer the athleticism of both cowboys/cowgirls and the animals – and make no mistake, those critters are athletes


    • What makes you assume I eat animal, or animal products. I am 100% Vegan.
      To be anything less would be hypocritical. They are not critters and they are not athletes, they are scared frightened
      beings forced to perform for human profit and entertainment.


      • Well, I assumed, like most people, you eat meat. My apology if I offended you. What I was typing (before my message was whisked away somehow) is that the animals seem to love ‘their work’ … not unlike my dog loves chasing a ball. I’m no apologist … but when those horses run, they are having fun … and that is plain to see. As for ‘some animals die while working’, so do people. I’m a believer that the rodeo management folks do a great job of pro-active animal care. Not because I’m on anyone’s side, not because I’m a Calgarian ..but because I’ve met so many very caring people who are involved – to say nothing of 1.2 million people who went to see it. I’ll bet some of them were vegans ..


  6. You did not offend me, I am used to it. There is a problem when you say the animals seem to love their work, given a choice, which they are not, I would seem to believe that they would prefer to run around in a pasture as opposed to running around an arena pulling a heavy chuck wagon behind them with the probability of injury or death. Unlike you, for me it is not plain to see that they are having fun, maybe I am wrong. I agree and am sure that all the management people at the rodeo care for their animals, but that has nothing to do with running these races and putting their animals in harms way. If they really cared for them they would not do this, just as I am quite sure you would not put your own dog in any event that might possibly injure or kill it, because you genuinely love it. Just because 1.2 million people went to see it is irrelevant, that just means 1.2 million people have no concerns for the possibility of injury or death to the animals taking part in these races. I highly doubt that any true vegan would attend the Calgary Stampede unless they were outside
    protesting it.


  7. So sad … I rarely am able to enjoy Stampede as most do and usually ‘run away’ for the ten days and it is primarily because of our first settlers in this wild wilderness of Canada and how they continue to be treated as second class citizens in our country, our continent really!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We go every year as a family for the Grandstand — Alexis used to be in the Young Canadians and it is our family tradition. It was good to see this year that the show included a beautiful element of First Nations dance — Dallas Arcand is a world champion hoop dancer and his segment of the show celebrated his prowess as a dancer and First Nations history. It began with a giant filigree metal eagle flying over the stadium lit with lights — it had articulating joints and moved with grace as it came down from the skies — stunning!.

      And yes, it is sad how we continue to discriminate.

      Thanks for stopping by Seija — so lovely to see you! 🙂


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  9. Louise my heart breaks for this lost soul. I hope he can find his way back somehow. So many broken humans on the streets. You did an amazing thing as most people would pretend he was not even there. I remember living in a big city. I loved your message too in this piece.


  10. Powerful and true. I’ve felt the same way about the lost souls I’ve met, and about those who had this land long before it was conquered by invaders from Europe. Thank you for caring and trying to help Michael. I hope he finds peace and his purpose.


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