South Peace News
Indigenous culture was celebrated at the 60th annual High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo held Aug. 2-3.
The Treaty 8 Culture Camp presented local communities with seven tipis in the northeast corner of the rodeo grounds.
Whitefish Lake First Nation, Woodlland Cree First Nation, Loon Lake First Nation, Lubicon Lake Band and Peerless Trout First Nation participated in the village.
History, food, crafts and traditions were featured in the tipi village organized by Woodland Cree band manager Marilyn Rudd and several women Elders.
Treaty 8 was invited by the Elks to host a culture at the rodeo, she says.
“It brings people together, for good food and good teaching of our culture,” Rudd says.
“We’d like to do it again.”
She says it’s a good opportunity to share the Indigenous culture to people in other cultures.
“Our Elders were teaching in the tipis,” Rudd says.
Visitors even learned about the use of plants for medicine.
A trapper was teaching people about trapping, she says.
“Our Elders survived on selling those furs,” Rudd says.
“That was their livelihood, our livelihood.”
Visitors enjoyed the experience.
“It’s been great to interact with people we met,” Elder Dolly Letendre says.
Elder Nancy Williams agrees.
“People have been so thankful for us to share our culture,” Williams says.
“They say you people are the closest to Mother Earth and they want to come back and learn more.”
Elder Kathleen Laboucan says people are very interested in the Indigenous culture.
“They wanted us to share our culture,” she says.
She says a four-year-old child ate smoked moose meat for the first time.
A dream of longtime rodeo supporter, Frank Pratt, the tipi camp returned in 2018 to the rodeo after about 50 years.
“Most of our rodeo customers and supporters are Indigenous and we wanted to make them feel important and welcome,” says Pratt, now 96.
He remembers in the early years of the local rodeo – even before the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo – that teams of Indigenous people would travel by horse-drawn wagons from far distances and camp on the rodeo grounds one week before the rodeo started.
The camp did not return in 2019 and the rodeo was cancelled in 2021 and 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.