‘Being the buffalo’: Artists honour prairie animal in Regina festival – Saskatchewan

Dancers will be taking over the streets of Regina for the Queen City Ex parade on Tuesday to bring back the spirit of the Buffalo.

The Buffalo Stampede and Festival is a four-day workshop and celebration organized by the Buffalo People Arts Institute in collaboration with New Dance Horizons and the MacKenzie Art Gallery.

The aim is to honour the spirit of the buffalo as a source of life on the Prairies. They are sharing Buffalo teachings using art, and traditional and contemporary dance.

The workshop culminates in a festival in the meadow behind the MacKenzie Art Gallery on Monday and a float in the Queen City Ex parade Tuesday evening.

Honouring history

“The buffalo were the original inhabitants of this area and so we need that truth to come out,” said Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway, project co-ordinator with the Buffalo People Arts Institute.

“When people recall stories of the buffalo, they say they were like ants on the Prairies.”

The Buffalo Festival celebrated art representing the buffalo behind the MacKenzie Art Gallery on Monday. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC)

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, it’s estimated that 30 million buffalo once roamed North America prior to the arrival of Europeans. On the Canadian Prairies, it’s estimated the population was as high as 10 million.

The animal was virtually extinct by the end of the 1800s. 

“The truth is the Canadian government, in order to settle the west, instigated the decimation of the buffalo,” said BigEagle-Kequahtooway.

“They wanted to kill the buffalo to kill the Indian.”

‘The buffalo are still here’

The festival facilitators are teaching the participants to embody the buffalo in their dance movements with a “buffalo stomp” while wearing headpieces with horns and hair.

“It was told to me that when the buffalo roamed, they ran in herds, stomping the ground with their hooves. They were waking the spirits in the ground to grow new things, new life,” said Russell Paskimen, one of the facilitators teaching the buffalo dance.

“We’re actually physically being the buffalo in the parade, and showing the crowd and everyone in attendance that we’re still here, the buffalo are still here.”

For Indigenous populations in North America, the buffalo were a vital resource.

“The buffalo provided for our people in every aspect,” said Chasity Delorme, another dance facilitator with the program.

“There was no piece left unused, and we want to continue to remind not just Indigenous…

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