By Tim Kalinowski
It was really good to see Nekaneet Elder Russell Buffocalf at the “History of the Hills” event last Thursday at the Elkwater Rodeo Grounds. Russell and I go back a few years now to when I would often cover First Nations events in southwest Saskatchewan with my old newspaper.
Actually, it even goes back before then. Russell and I first met through mutual friend Dick Byrd the summer I was working in the Cypress Hills Park on the Saskatchewan side in 2009 as one of the team of park interpreters there. Byrd, (who is Métis), also worked as an interpreter that same year, and had many great stories, (which cannot be disclosed here because most exceeded the PG-13 rating), to tell about his younger days on the road as a bandmate of Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame, with their old Calgary based band “The Shades.”
Dick went on after that earlier experience to travel across North America for nearly ten years as the leader of a professional touring rock band. Byrd’s band never quite achieved the commercial success the band members longed for, but they did have some measure of success as a live act, eventually opening for big country artists like George Jones and Johnny Horton who were looking to inject a little Rock and Roll into their twang at the time to stay hip with the kids.
However, I digress.
Suffice to say it was through Byrd I first met Russell Buffalocalf. Russell and I have run into each other at various events over the years since, and I have always enjoy how down to earth he is to talk to despite his Elder status.
Buffalocalf and I get along. And I think if more Canadians and First Nations’ peoples sat down and actually talked with one another, person to person, they would find they get along just as well.
An event like “History of the Hills,” organized by well-known local Elder Deborah Lloyd in close collaboration with various other First Nations and Métis representatives from the region, is a great way to start building the basis for that future time when, I believe, First Nations and other Canadians of various stripes will begin to draw closer and closer to one another.
I hope it will happen. And I expect it will happen. But whether or not I am alive to see it, or see it before I am a stooped and bent old man, remains an open question. I just hope if my readers get the chance like I have had to make a connection with someone like Russell Buffalocalf, Dick Byrd or Métis elder Cecile Blanke from Swift Current, they will take it. It is only through such connections we that can start breaking down the barriers that have divided us all for so long.