An Interview with Cieran Starlight

How the 2018 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess is breaking barriers and maintaining the ethos of Stampede.

BY JENN WEBSTER

If you haven’t picked up a copy of the May/June Western Horse Review, you need to – soon! In this issue, we had the opportunity to photograph and interview Cieran Starlight, the 2018 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess. Lending her photography talent, was Shelby Simmonds of Twisted Tree Photography. There were so many amazing photos taken at this shoot and since it’s not always possible to fit everything onto the printed pages of a magazine, we simply had to showcase them here. Here too, is an excerpt of the interview.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Cieran Starlight is a fresh face in a heavy conversation about Indigenous awareness.

Raised traditionally, Starlight hails from the Tsuu T’ina First Nations. She represents the tribes of Treaty 7 (Siksika, Tsuu T’ina, Stoney, Piikani and Kainai Nations), Indian Village and the Calgary Stampede as the 2018 Indian Princess. It’s a commitment of colossal proportions and one that requires large shoulders. As Princess, Starlight will attend numerous events during her reign (more than there are days in the year), and educate the people she meets about the vibrant First Nations culture.

The name of her title will be questioned.

That fact alone should make the general public realize that upon winning her crown, Starlight won herself a very important role in promoting Indigenous richness – not a beauty pageant.

Starlight in her white, satin fancy dress, colourful shawl, and other breathtaking, cultural regalia. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

However, it doesn’t hurt that she has the kindest eyes, a genuinely beautiful smile and flawless skin either.

Growing up around the Calgary Stampede teepee owners, Starlight is well educated about the history of the Indian Village. Her family has been part of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth since 1912. She comes from a long line of Starlight performers who year after year, stay in the Village for the duration of Stampede’s 10 days answering questions for tourists, performing in Rope Square, and participating in mini pow-wows. She even worked one summer stint as an interpretative guide. It’s possible Starlight’s transition into the Indian Princess role, was a birth right bestowed on her by the universe.

There may be no more genuinely authentic person to represent First Nations peoples and their Stampede traditions at the moment than Starlight. Her challenge – one shared by a younger generation that has inherited the after effects of a cultural trauma – is how to encourage a better understanding of Aboriginal Peoples and how to keep that difficult conversation relevant for the future.

“I am not offended to be called the Indian Princess. I’m okay with it. It’s beaded into my crown. People have just used it in such an offensive way to Natives in the past,” Starlight says. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

Luckily, for many of her adventures as Princess, Starlight is accompanied by chaperone Holly Fortier, who is a Cree/Dene from Ft. McKay First Nation, Alberta, and was also born in Treaty 7 Territory. Fortier has travelled the county conducting cultural sensitivity workshops to literally thousands of people, through her Nisto Consulting business. Fortier is in the ripple-effect generation of Indigenous people who suffered first-hand from Canada’s Residential School policies as her own mother was taken from her family at an early age. She has her own story and has carved out her own powerful role in the world by helping others adopt a respectful comprehension of Indigenous awareness.

Together and separately, both Starlight and Fortier are a spiritual force we can’t help but embrace. They are the winds carrying change.

“I’m so happy that I get to be a voice and not just a face,” Starlight tells us afterwards.

Starlight’s custom Princess buckle and a jingle dress she created herself. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

In the interview, we talk about the history of the Calgary Stampede, Guy Weadick and the positive relations between the Stampede and the Treaty 7 First Nations people. We also talk about the Indigenous name controversy. It’s an enlightening conversation to which, we are privileged to have Fortier’s guidance on the subject.

Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

We also discover the many talents Starlight possesses: she often makes her own jingle or fancy dresses and shawls to compete in traditional dance. One of her favorite tasks as the Princess are her days spent with the Happy Trails organization – a monthly event during her reign that requires all of the Stampede Royalty to meet at Senior Citizen homes and spend time with the residents.

“We sing old songs and do live performances for them,” Starlight grins. “Sometimes they want to sing along with us so we’ll find the page in their songbooks for them too. Things like that.”

She often tries to wear her yellow jingle dress on these visits because she knows many of the seniors need their spirits lifted. “I do a healing dance for them. A lot of the older ladies want to touch the jingles afterwards – they’re so cute. And it’s so nice if you can bring a smile to their face,” she says.

 

Starlight curbs the chill of the winter temperatures, in a Pendleton Night Dance Robe blanket. Photo by Twisted Tree Photography.

“My role as Princess is to try and break down barriers and help people understand – this is about more than just a title. The Calgary Stampede is run on volunteers. The Royalty programs are youth development programs that help young women learn to speak publicly and build their confidence. I’m trying to educate people about my culture. We all have different dialects of language and different traditions that we practice. A word is not what I’m focusing on – it’s the Treaty 7 and the Calgary Stampede as a whole.” – Cieran Starlight.

To read more of this exclusive interview, order your subscription today at: www.westernhorsereview.com

Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket: A Brief History

Source, Pinterest.

By JENN WEBSTER

Recently I had the opportunity to bring my mother a gift. I was really struggling with the perfect offering but when I came across a Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket, I knew my search had ended. Was there anything more Canadian? Growing up, I was always familiar with the multi-stripe pattern of this iconic blanket. One of my most treasured possessions now is a baby picture of my husband crawling around on one. However, I came to realize that after giving the newly acquired gift to my mother, I didn’t understand much of the blanket’s history.

It was time to look further into the iconic status of the Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket. First commissioned by Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1800, the multi-stripe design lives on as a testament to our shared Canadian heritage. Throughout the 18th century, wool blankets were among the most popular trade items in the Canadian fur trade, accounting for more than 60% of all goods exchanged by 1700. Although blankets had been a trade good offered for some time, it was not until 1779 that the Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket came to life.

French fur-trader Germain Maugenest is thought to have advised the HBC to introduce point blankets. As part of his service of employment to HBC, he offered several suggestions for improving the growing inland trade from Fort Albany along the west coast of James Bay. One of his suggestions was that the company should regularly stock and trade “pointed” blankets.

Points were identified by the indigo lines woven into the side of each blanket. A full point measured 4–5.5 inches (10–14 centimetres); a half point measured half that length. The standard measurements for a pair of 1-point blankets was: 2 feet, 8 inches (81 centimetres) wide by 8 feet (2.4 metres) in length; with a weight of 3 pounds, 1 ounce (1.4 kilograms) each. Points ranged from 1 to 6, increasing by halves depending upon the size and weight of the blanket.

They allowed a blanket’s size to be easily determined even when folded – (Oh, how I wish all blankets and sheets came marked like this! Lord knows a system such as that found on Point Blankets would serve my current linen closet well…!) The point system was invented by French weavers in the mid-1700s since then, as now, blankets were shrunk as part of the manufacturing process. The word point derives from the French empointer, meaning “to make threaded stitches on cloth.”

The number of points on a blanket represents the overall finished size of the blanket – not its value in terms of beaver pelts, as is often thought.

 Although some sources suggest there is some meaning to the stripe colours or order, the truth is that nothing intentional was meant by the design. The four traditional colours of green, red, yellow, and indigo were simply colours that were popular and easily produced using good colourfast dyes at the time (around 1800). They are sometimes referred to as Queen Anne’s colours, since they first became popular during her reign (1702–1714).

 

The 1974 Calgary Stamped Royalty. Happy Barlow, Karin Kraft, Sis Thacker.

Interestingly enough, HBC did not roll out its first commercially available Point Blanket coat until 1922, although fur traders, voyageurs and Indigenous peoples had already been making them into coats for almost 200 years by then. These too, come with a long, interesting history.

The Coyote Fur throw by Caroline Furs.

What I love most about the HBC Point Blankets are their rich history and the fact that back in the early days of fur trading, they were well suited for cold Canadian winters. I had a Grandfather who tried to make an early living out of the trapping of beaver pelts. I can almost picture him traveling by dogsled with his young wife (my Grandmother) draped in a Point Blanket, deep into the wilderness of Canada.

Today, the blankets still hold their iconic status and warmth and as such, are used in a multitude of ways for home decor or fashion.

As seen in Vogue Australia. Source: Pinterest.

With their pops of color, these blankets make Canadiana statements wherever you look. From couch throws, to mugs, to the patterns on towels at a cottage retreat – the HBC Point Blanket pattern has inspired many a home. The pattern has also made appearances on special edition Canadian Olympic blankets, snowboards, Barbies, and milestone anniversary Canadian gifts.

Photo Credit: Ryan Rowell of Rowell Photo

Often duplicated, all genuine HBC Point Blankets come with authenticity labels. This has been done since 1890, as point blankets of similar quality were being sold by HBC competitors. In April 2017 HBC updated the label, rotating it from portrait to landscape, making it is easy to have English and French on either side of the crest. It was also enhanced with red on the flag. To celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary in 2017, HBC added an additional label which was a picture of voyageurs in a canoe, with CANADA on the top, to the blanket.

With such an elaborate history dating back to the early days of fur traders and settlers in Canada, I believe we’ll start to see more of the HBC Point Blanket influence in western lifestyle culture too, as our younger generations begin to understand its importance to our early beginnings. To me, it’s a symbol of early pioneering. A good that was crafted into a need and helped forge early Canada. It goes hand in hand with a wood-burning stove and a love of the past. What’s more western than that?

Equine Connection: Working with the Horse as the Teacher

Equine Connection offers programs where the horse is the teacher.

Equine Connection is empowering people to change their lives while working with the horse. Located near Calgary, Alberta, Equine Connection is a multi-faceted organization that focuses on the many ways using the horse as a teacher through Equine Assisted Learning can help people build the skills to change their lives. Equine Assisted Learning is a horse-course with an effective approach to human development that encourages individual and team growth. Participants engage in objectively driven exercises and find themselves learning valuable life skills in a fun and exciting atmosphere. Equine Assisted Learning has proven to be useful, powerful, positive, educational and creative. Exercises are developed to encourage self-confidence through validated, hands-on experiences. Equine Connection offers team-building and leadership development for organizations, empowering women’s workshops and also offer horse certification courses so that you too can become active in the Equine Assisted Learning community.

Youth programs offered by Equine Connection empower children and allow them to be leaders.

Youth programs are also an important part of the Equine Connection curriculum and are approved by the Calgary Board of Education. Through interactive youth programs, participants will learn life skills to aid in their personal growth. Once a child is taught the basics of dealing properly with a horse, he or she can become the leader the horse seeks, making horses the ultimate teacher for children. When the horse feels safe, cooperation is a hundred fold and the child can easily get the horse to do what is asked of it. Bringing that piece back to their lives is a parallel to how one needs to work with people and themselves in all aspects of their lives.

The programs are generally twelve weeks long with each week focusing on a different skill or lesson.

The Equine Assisted Learning programs are now emerging in reserve communities throughout Alberta facilitated by certified facilitators through Equine Connection. These unique programs are contributing to the wellbeing of First Nations youth. Canadian research indicates that the majority of misusers of volatile substances are between the ages of 10 and 17, with peak use between 12 and 15. (Adlaf and Paglia 2003; Youth Solvent Additional Committee 2004). The spirit of the horse can assist in turning this shocking statistic around and reshape the future of the children. The Equine Connection programs run for twelve weeks and each week teaches a different lesson or life skill. Working with the horse as the teacher can prepare the children for life by helping them build life skills to empower them and turn them into leaders of their community.

Hands-on learning is a key aspect of the programs.

One of the many bonuses of working with horses instead of in a traditional classroom setting is the component of interactivity. We all learn differently, but we can all take away lessons that we learn through our experiences. As the only Nationally Recognized Equine Assisted Learning Program in Canada, each of Equine Connection’s exercises are custom designed to maximize learning potential and focus on developing individual skills as they work through each fun interactive group challenge. Youth participants will develop relationships, learn to accept responsibility and accountability, overcome barriers to fin change and be encouraged to be creative and innovative. The youth programs allow the opportunity for children to work together and realize the benefits associated with effective communication. Equine Assisted Learning acts as an important educational tool to help to develop empathy and kindness as well as combat behavioural disorders, low self-esteem, bullying, drug abuse, emotional issues, poor communication skills and the inability to work with others.

 

The First Nations community is teaching empowerment and key life skills through Equine Assisted Learning.

Here is just one of the great stories that has emerged from the youth programs working with First Nations children.

“”The shell must break before the bird can fly,” ~ Tennyson. As Gloria progressively came to us, she was able to slowly break out of her shell and was able to acquire the skill she needed. We placed them into groups and more often than not the kids are not always satisfied with who they get matched up with. This was the case for this group of kids. No one even wanted to be with Gloria, so she began working on a horse on her own.

When Gloria began to work on the horse on her own, she began connecting with him right away due to her stimulus. The horse and her were constantly eye to eye and just by a quick glance you could tell already that they were opening up to each other. The other kids began noticing and began to get jealous, which resulted in them going up and taking the horse away from Gloria. We as facilitators had to let the process happen and could not intervene. It took all the strength in us to not involve ourselves as we felt bad for little Gloria. It broke our hearts to see that connection be broken up so quickly. But again, we listened to the horse and the situation happening was okay.

On to the next horse. You wouldn’t believe it. It happened again. Gloria and this other horse connected right away. Eye ball to eye ball. There came the other kids and stole that horse away from Gloria. Again, we stood back and let the process happen.

Finally, by the 8th program… The last program, she got the skill she needed. This same situation happened repeatedly and that last day she finally stood up for herself. She stomped down her foot and said no, I am working with this horse. I think we were all taken back a bit as we were not expecting that. However, by us letting the process happen she finally got the skill she needed to say no.
   
 Just when you thought that was amazing, it got even better. After we were done, we went back into the classroom as happy as pigs in mud to go debrief. In the debriefing stage, the kids usually choose one word and talk about it and how it reflected their day. However, for Gloria she didn’t chose just one word, not even just two words. She chose 8 words! I asked her why she hose those and BAM BAM BAM she lists each of them off. Each and every one of them. Next thing you know, all the kids are standing up and giving her a standing ovation.
   
Seeing the change from the beginning to the end is why we love our career so much.”

Equine Connection offers many different programs, but all of them focus on the horse as the teacher.

For more information on Equine Connection and the various programs they offer, visit www.equineconnection.ca.

EQUI-BUSINESS – True Life Stories of Success

Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” – Pele

Last month on the Equi-Business blog, we talked about obtaining financial lending in pursuit of an equine property goal. We began with the reality that the equine business is a challenging industry for traditional banks to provide financial support. For young people with the goal of creating a business in the horse industry, the lifestyle can be one filled with many rewards. Equine industries are also a good way of making a piece of land pay for itself – but none of it comes without proper planning, hard work and often, sacrifice.

Last year WHR spoke with some couples in the horse industry who faced the daunting task of obtaining financial support for a farm or ranch, to help elevate their horse businesses to the next level. Each faced their own hurdles as they went through the process.

Austin and Sara Seelhof and family.

Austin and Sara Seelhof run a successful reining horse training facility in Bottrel, Alberta. Austin focuses on training, showing and selling futurity and derby horses, and has a successful coaching program for non-professional riders. His wife, Sara, owns Be Better Equine Therapy which specializes in therapeutic thermal imaging for equine athletes. They are also the proud parents to three young children. Originally, Austin ran his burgeoning training business out of Lauder Ranch near Cochrane, AB, but the Seelhofs recognized the need to invest in more equity while growing their business and investing in their future.

In March 2017, the couple purchased a 50-acre property in Bottrel, Alberta that includes a house, a 110 x 220 arena, an existing barn and a shop. The property fit many of their requirements, including a wonderful school for their children nearby.

Austin says that when they began to think about properties he had originally wanted to buy land and build on it. They went through Farm Credit Canada (FCC), with the help of a great mortgage broker. However, the FCC was leery about financing a property that would need to be built upon and the Seelhof’s wouldn’t have been able to come up with a big enough down payment. The acreage they decided on was much easier to receive financing for through the FCC.

The FCC also had a “Young Farmers Loan” program at the time that liked to assist agriculturists under 40 in keeping their family in agriculture. The Seelhof’s had a solid business plan that showed steady growth in the last six years, as well as a side business in compressed hay that could be run from the property. The couple did look at other banks who offered good interest rates, but Austin says, “We chose Farm Credit because of their flexibility. You can stall payments, and we really felt like we were a person with them, not a number. They have different programs available so if you are having trouble paying, or you break your leg or something, they can be flexible and add payments on to the end if need be.”

Another added bonus of using FCC was that the lending institution would value the entire property, while many banks won’t value outbuildings in their property assessment. For the Seelhofs, this meant that their barn and arena wouldn’t be included in their loan – not ideal for a family who makes a living training horses.

Austin says, “One thing I wish I would’ve done sooner was to talk to a banker. My dad always said that you need a relationship with a banker, or an accountant or mortgage broker. At first it was really scary, but it was helpful to have a great mortgage broker to guide us.”

Alex Alves works a horse in the roundpen.

Alex and Sonja Alves operate Hat Creek Performance Horses on the Hat Creek Ranch in Wheatland County, 30 minutes east of Strathmore, Alberta. They offer horse training from colt starting to finishing, with access to cattle, pasture, trails and obstacles. As well as lessons, cowboy challenge and flag practice nights, Hat Creek also takes in horses for resale, all the while slowly building a breeding program on strong bloodlines. The Alves ranch has 80 acres of which 50 are hay crop and 30 are pasture. The Alves’ purchased the property on August 31, 2012 after the previous owners had moved six years prior. The property had a calving barn that was too low for horses, a complete corral system to run cattle, a shop, a craft shop that had been used to make saddles and an outdoor arena that had become overgrown. Despite small modifications, the Alves’ felt the property had potential and Hat Creek was ready for them to bring horses in immediately. It needed few upgrades for cattle. Another bonus was that, at the time, Alex was working towards getting his welding journeyman and B-Pressure and the shop was perfect for his set-up.

Alex and Sonja have three children. Alex grew up in the horse industry and immersed himself in various events. It was always a dream of his to be able to make a living training horses, however it didn’t always seem feasible which is why he became a welder as well.

By the end of 2015 they had built an indoor arena on their property and by 2016 they training was their full time profession.

The main building at Hat Creek Ranch (owned by Alex and Sonja Alves).

The Alves’ did hit some snags when attempting to purchase their property. Due to Hat Creek being 80 acres and set up mainly for cattle, agricultural lenders considered it a hobby farm. Other lenders saw it as an acreage and therefore, agricultural. So, as Sonja states, “It completely fell through the cracks of the lending world. Being that we were 25 and under at the time, lenders had no interest in lending us money. The next catch was that we had to have 20% down.”

Alex and Sonja had to put together a business plan, and present it to the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) who offered a great interest rate of 1.86%. In order to acquire financing, the plan had to show that it was possible to generate at least $15,000 in revenue off the property so that they could be considered agricultural.

“At the time we only had about 10% to put down, so we got a loan through my parents so we could have the down payment and purchase the property. We honestly had to find a back road to be able to purchase the property. We spent at least a month-and-a-half trying to find a way to get financed. It was a nightmare.” For the Alves’, Sonja says that there is a lot of advice for young couples, and some of it seems to be repetitive in nature.

“For us, I think it is important to remember that if you wanted it bad enough there will be a way, no matter how many doors get shut right in your face, there will be a back road open. At the end of the day, success can only be achieved one way and that is through hard work. Alex says it so well, ‘You never fail, it just gives you another chance to succeed.’”

When Equi-Business returns, we’ll start discussing the important and elements of a business plan. ’Til next time!

WHR’s Top Instagram Posts of 2017

Credit: Chad Rowbotham Photography

Tomorrow is a new day and a new year. With all the excitement around Western Horse Review’s social media channels in 2017, we thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of our top Instagram posts of the year.

#1, Above, was a photo taken by Chad Rowbotham Photography. We used this beautiful image as the cover to our Nov/Dec 2016 issue, but we loved the picture so much we ran it again on our Instagram page this past October. Viewers loved it so much, this photo is our all-time highest reaching post.

Credit: Callaghan Creative Co.

#2, Above, was an image taken at our most recent photo shoot, upcoming in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue. It was captured by Callaghan Creative Co. in an outfit inspired by Back on Track Canada and Winslowe Rowe. Turns out, our Instagram viewers loved it too.

 

Credit: Jenn Webster

#3, Above, was shot in a spur-of-the-moment reflex as Alberta experienced one of those momentous sunsets of the Indian Summer of September. Featuring a curious weanling in my backyard, his silhouette against the beautiful sky made for another of our most popular Instagram posts.

 

Credit: Jenn Webster

#4, Above, Posted only three days ago, this little mini in the snow captured the hearts of many of our Instagram viewers. One viewer even commented, “Thelwell lives on!”

 

Credit: Tara McKenzie Fotos

#5, Above, This photo taken by McKenzie Fotos featured the beauty in the details of this cow horse bit and romal reins. The photo is so real, you can almost feel the horse’s whiskers.

 

Credit: Tanja Schneider Photography

#6, Above, In our Jan/Feb 2018 issue (coming to your mailbox soon!) we have an exclusive interview with Tanja Schneider – the young photography phenom capturing the very souls of horses and dogs with her camera lens. This shot features a Paint horse and its Australian Shephard buddy and was our #6 most popular Instagram post of the year.

 

Credit: Jenn Webster

#7, Above, On Dec. 23, 2017, a group of our friends and family came out to enjoy a day of skijoring with us. I snapped this pic of our snowboarder friend Sara, in a moment of pure joy with a horse ironically named “Webster.”

 

Credit: Stock Photography.

#8, Above, This image was simply a stock photography pic we had in our files, but as it comes in at #8 on the list, it just goes to prove how popular winter shots are right now on Instagram!

 

Credit: Jenn Webster

#9, Above, Finally our #9 most popular post on Instagram was a shot I captured quickly on a snowy day of my daughter and her mini friend “Legacy,” with my iPhone.

 

As the clock strikes midnight tonight and we ring in 2018, Western Horse Review would like to wish you all a very happy New Year!

BeefTech presented by realagriculture

Photo Credit: Jenn Webster

Join Northlands on November 8 and 9 for BeefTech presented by realagriculture — an interactive beef industry learning event. BeefTech is a comprehensive agriculture conference focusing on state-of-the-art practices and technology in the beef industry.

Agriculture experts will share knowledge on a range of topics from the use of drones in ranching to using ultrasound to predict carcass traits. Attendees can take in a choice of nearly 20 sessions of intuitive knowledge and insight.  These sessions are unique in that they’re as informative as they are interactive. Session speakers will put new management practices and technologies directly in attendees’ hands, giving them the opportunity to choose the right technology that will make them – and those involved in the production chain, profitable.

Quadcopter with camera flying over field. Photo Credit: Smart agriculture Concept

Sessions include:

  • Cow-Calf Cost of Production: Calculator Tutorial – Kathy Larson
  • Managing Cattle from Above: Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Precision Ranching – John Church
  • Timed Breeding: How Protocols Work – Don Miller 
  • Lessons in Advocacy: Tips to Help You Speak Up – Andrew Campbell
  • Building A Risk Management Program for Your Cattle Operations – Ryan Copithorne

Photo Credit: Jenn Webster

Featured Keynotes include:
Robert Saik, Agri-Trend – “The Agriculture Manifesto”
Rob will take you on a quick journey showing how farmers are integrating technology to feed a growing world population. He will touch on robotics, artificial intelligence, sensor integration, bio synthesis (GE and GMO), data systems and environment sustainability.

Andrew Campbell, Fresh Air – “Stand Up for Your Industry!”
Explore and experience emerging technologies and innovative management practices. Learn how to implement technology in your beef operation to improve production and increase profitability.

Photo Credit: Jenn Webster

For registration and further details,
visit northlands.com/our-community/agriculture/beeftech.