Calgary Stampede renames ‘Indian Village’ showcase

Indigenous participants voted to change the name after 106 years of use

Resolute, Wikimedia Commons
Teepees set up at the Calgary Stampede's Indian Village in 2011. Resolute, Wikimedia Commons

For more than 100 years, the Calgary Stampede's showcase of Indigenous culture has been named the "Indian Village." No longer.

On Sunday, July 15, on the last day of the Stampede, it was announced that the showcase will be renamed Elbow River Camp.

The showcase site is located on the banks of the Elbow River, featuring teepees, pow wows, arts and crafts, and traditional storytelling.

Since 1912, the five nations of the Treaty 7 — the Tsuut'ina, Piikani, Stoney, Kainai and Siksika — have participated in the event.

There has been a strong desire to rename the showcase for decades, as the term "Indian" is an offensive term for Indigenous peoples — the misnomer was applied by European explorers who arrived in North America but thought they had landed on the Indian subcontinent.

The Stampede "Indian Princess" ambassador title will also be renamed.

"Personally, I’ve experienced a lot of confrontation around the name, and it’s become very hard for me to explain it in a way that people will understand,” Cieran Starlight, 2018's Tsuut'ina Nation Indian Princess, told The Globe and Mail.

Why did the name change not happen earlier?

Indigenous teepee owners voted on the name change on Tuesday, July 10, and their decision was supported by Stampede officials.

One of the reasons why the teepee owners waited so long to change the showcase's name — many of whom are descendants of the families who originally set up camp on the Elbow River site — is due to name recognition.

"Coming from a tepee-owning family, we know the name Indian Village — and that’s something that’s really hard for us to let go of," Starlight added.

Noran Calf Robe, whose grandfather Ben was camped on the site back in 1912 and was a famous Blackfoot elder and interpreter, told the Globe that he welcomes the name change.

"We’re not Indians, but we’ve been branded with that name. Christopher Columbus got lost."

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About Robert J. Ballantyne

Robert J.Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star.

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