I’m reading a book called Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life by Kingsley M. Bray right now.

In both Canada and the United States, the disappearance of the buffalo was the biggest humanitarian and environmental catastrophe that you’ve never heard of. Scientists are only beginning to recognize now that cattle also introduced diseases into wild herds that weakened them.

The American government wanted the bison gone — it had two transcontinental railroads to build and dealing with freedom fighters like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull was impossible as long as they had access to the food and shelter supplied by those big herds.

Here in Canada, the situation was slightly different. The government knew the bison would be gone eventually but their priority was not to be financially responsible for the First Nations people in western Canada. They thought they had time, and if you had ever seen one of those massive herds you would have understood why they believed that.

Let’s say you and I are standing on a rise in the prairie. We say to each other, “Do you hear that?” But that isn’t exactly what we mean. What we mean is do you FEEL that … the sound is coming out of the ground up through our feet. An hour later … look to the north as far as you can, look to the south as far as you can. That herd is a mile wide, and it passes us by for an hour. You would never, ever forget a sight like that.

Only two years after Treaty 7 was signed in 1877 (the agreement the Crown signed with the indigenous people and settlers in my area) the bison were gone from southern Alberta and the people here were starving. We talk about the bison on the tour of Chestermere that’s happening tonight — did we have bison herds in this area? Come to find out how glacier rocks and a natural prairie spring offer us some clues.

go stamps go: the calgary tigers

Among the recruits who marched west with the F Troop in 1874 in search of the place where the Bow and Elbow Rivers met were immigrants from Europe who brought the game of rugby with them from their faraway homes. Rugby is known to have been played in Calgary as early as 1883. This match was played at the NWMP barracks at Fort Calgary with the Deane House in the background.

Meanwhile, the First Nations people were willing to give some of the new Canadian sporting events a try. However sometimes the game made no sense. For instance, when it came to football, why would you let another person attack you? In his book NWMP: The North West Mounted Police 1874 – 1885, Jack F. Dunn describes a rugby/football match that went awry: “One day at Fort Walsh, several Indians were invited to join a rugby match. The game took other dimensions, however, when a shoulder block by constable George Adams sent one Indian opponent flying. When the downed man got up and drew a knife, Adams “made for the fort”. ”

The Calgary Tigers were formed officially at a meeting on August 27, 1908. Practices were at 5.00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays where Riley Park is located now and the season would run from September until the end of October.

The first rugby/football uniforms were canvas pants and leather helmets. Pads were not used for playing or practice until the late 1920s. Sprains and broken bones were common. Concussions happened too, but they were not recognized as causing potentially serious and permanent damage to the brain we recognize today.

Imagine we could bundle up on a beautiful September night in 1908 and head down to Riley Park to watch the Calgary Tigers in action. What sort of game could we expect to see? Well, football at the time was English-style rugby … kicking, tackling, punting. Also, North Hill in the background with not a structure or a tree in sight!

Read more:

  • Go Stamps Go! Graham Kelly
  • NWMP: The North West Mounted Police: 1873 – 1885 by Jack F. Dunn
North Hill does not have a tree or a structure on it!!
Here the Calgary Tigers are in action near what is
now Riley Park.

21 great books

  1. High Rider by Bill Gallagher
  2. Frontier Farewell by Garrett Wilson
  3. We Are Coming Home by Gerald Conaty
  4. Clearing the Plains by James William Daschuk
  5. The Pemmican Eaters by Marilyn Dumont
  6. A Terrible Glory by James Donovan
  7. Ranching Women by Rachel Herbert
  8. Crowfoot: Chief of the Blackfoot by Hugh Dempsey
  9. Firewater by Hugh Dempsey
  10. Grant MacEwan’s Journals (edited by Max Foran )
  11. The Red Man’s Bones: George Catlin, Artist and Showman by Benita Eisler
  12. The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin
  13. The Banker and the Blackfoot: A Memoir of My Grandfather in Chinook Country by J. Edward Chamberlin
  14. Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
  15. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
  16. Quietus: Last Flight Accident Proneness in WWII by Anne Gafiuk
  17. Buffalo for the Broken Heart by Dan O`Brien
  18. The North-West Mounted Police: 1873-1885 by Jack F. Dunn
  19. The Great Blackfoot Treaties by Hugh Dempsey
  20. A Voice of Her Own (Legacies Shared) by Thelma Poirier
  21. Metis Pioneers by Doris Jeanne McKinnon

five things i love about canada:

1) Peace
2) Freedom
3) Emily Carr (I was so drawn to her wild, challenging paintings and defiant, independent spirit as a child).
4) W. O. Mitchell — I just saw “The Kite” performed. Hilarious, heartfelt, magical.
5) @cfl @calstampeders football!

“i have loved my country with a passionate love”

“My sins of omission and commission I do not deny; but I trust that it may be said of me in the ultimate issue, ‘Much is forgiven because he loved much,’ for I have loved my country with a passionate love.”

— John A. MacDonald.

I created this piece of art a few years ago during a period of pain, anger and despair as I examined the historical roots of my country and wondered how something founded on murder, eugenics, deception and flawed beliefs could ever have a good future. Despite what the UN has to say about us, Canada still certainly isn’t a good or safe place for everyone.

Yet, the liberty afforded to me as a woman in this land is almost unheard of in other nations on this earth. I can choose who I want to vote for. Being the bold lassie I am, I’ve at times bluntly told a visiting politician that I didn’t vote for them! With no thought of reprisals to me and mine — for the person did what I expected them to do, put another stack of pancakes on my plate and told me to call their office or come to visit them any time to discuss my concerns.

So, today I want to celebrate, with a thankful heart. Tomorrow, I promise to get back to work to make sure that the next 152 years are a heck of a lot better than the first 152 were.

#johnamacdonald #canada #canadian #canadiangirl #quote #quotation #canadaday #love #passionate

tenacious and visionary

Something funny and cute happened at the historic library/archive where I work yesterday. Every year, we are in charge of a display of historic photographs that is showcased in the Western Oasis at the Calgary Stampede, so it’s quite a big deal.

We are getting ready for our show this year, which is featuring small towns, and yesterday three of us were gathered round trying to decide which photographs we’d like to have enlarged. There was an aerial photograph someone had donated of the roundhouse in Hanna that we all quite liked so we were then deciding on what captions we wanted on it, i.e., dating when the roundhouse was built and when the photograph was taken and by whom, etc.

“It’s such a great photograph; we’ll just do some research and find out,” I said decidedly. Just then, my colleague picked up the envelope the photo had come in. On it in neat script, the donor had written the date the roundhouse was built (1913), the year the photograph was taken (1947) and who the photographer was! We looked at each other and burst out laughing. We are observant, tenacious and visionary historians and researchers, and I’d like to celebrate that.

Times this has happened before: 0.

free historic walking tours

So, I have pretty big news … I’m going to be leading guided walking tours sponsored by the Chestermere Historical Foundation this summer! And also, doing some contract work for my buddies over at Walk the YYC (more on that soon).

A few weeks ago, my sweet friend Paul made this comment on Twitter after I posted some photos of the Metis cabin in Inglewood. I had visited it that day for no particular reason. There was no historic festival happening, I stayed for a few minutes and then went on with my day. He said,

I like your idea of fun Shelly. Historical places over bars any day.


I must tell you that my whole entire life I’ve felt uncertain about the things I like to do. I like to sleep in my own bed every night. I like old places. I like quiet things. I need my experiences to have meaning, not intensity (the world is quite an intense place for me already).

When I travelled to Europe, I felt so nurtured by the options to tour cathedrals (“cathedral” is my favourite word, by the way), go for walking tours of many varieties (my personal favourites will come as a surprise to no one … I loved book/literary tours the best).

I keep wishing that there were more quiet things for us introverts to do. And, since I can’t find many, I’ve decided to make some. Some of us are happiest when we spend time in nature, take daily walks, have moments to reflect, and stories that bring us context, meaning and hope. That’s the kind of story I want to tell (there will be some fun ones too). My role here on this planet is to give people new eyes, to help them to see their surroundings in layers, and to fall in love with their own homes — feeling grounded and regulated and even more loving.

History, especially local history, is so helpful with this!

I should add that when Paul originally made that comment, our amazing friend who goes by Baron Von Awesome responded with this,

I like historical bars.

Yes! And, pub walks are great fun for a lot of people and believe me, I can see why they are so popular. I love an awful lot of extroverts! Some of us would prefer a tea or coffee stop though. And, I think after the tours are over, you can decide for yourself what would make the end of your night just perfect.

My tours are free, and you’re welcome to come along!