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"Canadian "Range Wars": Struggles over Indian Cowboys" Topic

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19th Century

280 hits since 16 Jan 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 In the TMP Dawghouse16 Jan 2019 8:55 p.m. PST

"Banff Indian Days and the Calgary Stampede were two of the most important tourist festivals to emerge in the period immediately following the opening of the west to massive European settlement. Together they made sense of the brutal expropriation of Indian lands, as well as the destruction of colonial mixed race fur trade society, by evacuating recent historical realities and replacing them with a discourse of white European (and masculine) origins for both region and nation. Each was designed to attract Eastern Canadian and British money to the region--Banff Indian Days by attracting wealthy tourists for the CPR and the Calgary Stampede by attracting tourists and investors to Calgary--and each did so by organizing Native/non-Native relations in a manner fitting to these ends.

Both of these events also mark important moments of cultural transformation which are intimately connected to the political struggles they strive to flatten. The introduction of frontier folkore at the Calgary Stampede marks the transformation from established modes of representing the region as essentially British to the introduction of American styles of popular entertainment and frontier mythology. If transformations in the field of culture are at all possible, it is because popular cultural forms are not wholly coherent, but contain within them tensions and contradictions--discursive and performative elements which "trouble" the unitary logic of popular cultural practices--which can eventually surface as full-fledged transformations in themselves. To wit, at the 1912 Calgary Stampede a Blood Indian named Tom Three Persons won the only cowboy championship for Canada, "troubling" the unity of a folkloric discourse founded on racial difference marked by the figures of the white cowboy and the Indian "other." Two generations later, members of the Stoney band at Morley who traditionally performed in the Banff Indian Days event at Banff, refused to participate. This boycott took place in the late 1970s, in the context of a struggle over whether Indian rodeo should be included or excluded from the fair's activities….."
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