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Local group wants buffalo to return to Regina
Published Wednesday, August 2, 2017 7:22PM CST
More than 50 buffalo dancers complete with two floats and a banner caught the eye of thousands at this year’s Queen City Ex Parade.
It is the beginning of the buffalo returning to the plains, at least in an artistic sense.
“We are honoring the spirit of the buffalo. They are the true inhabitants of Regina and the area and Saskatchewan. We want to acknowledge their existence,” said Joely Bigeagle-Kequahtooway, the co-founder for the Buffalo People Arts Institute. It is a non-profit organization with a mission to bring back the buffalo and to also share traditional Indigenous teachings, knowledge and nurturing so culture can thrive.
The parade was the final day of a six day schedule which began with free buffalo performance workshops, a free buffalo festival complete with live music and feast and a free buffalo inspired fashion show. The festival and fashion show took place at the Mackenzie Art Gallery. Bigeagle-Kequahtooway hopes to educate others about the history of the buffalo.
“They were our life source, they were our superstore, our clothing source. We needed them for everything and we still need them,” added Bigeagle-Kequahtooway.
“We are honoring the buffalo spirit in a good way with prayer and smudge. It’s all good. This will also help our youth. There is too many of our young people going ahead of us and most of them don’t know their culture,” added Lillian Piapot, one of the local elders advising the arts institute.
Bigeagle-Kequahtooway partnered with New Dance Horizons to organize the dance routine of a buffalo stampede taking back the streets of Regina.
“I had to learn the hip-hop dance and the sneak up. It was a lot of fun,” said Alijah Roberts-Paskimen, one of the many performers in the parade.
“We’re letting people know that the spirit of the buffalo. Paskwaw mostos in Cree for “still here and that we are buffalo people,” said Russell Paskimen, lead facilitator.
Less than 200 years ago, there were more than 50 million buffalo roaming North America. Past governments created laws that nearly decimated the entire buffalo population, with the ultimate goal of making room for settlers and to make way for the rail line.
“Our people were traumatized with the buffalo left. We were left without shelter. We were left without food. Our people went into a famine state for the sake of civilization, they wanted us removed,” said Bigeagle-Kequahtooway.
“The way to cultural genocide is to kill off this food supply and that was one of our main sources of food was the buffalo. We were hunter, gatherers,” added Paskimen.
Regina was formerly known as ‘Pile of Bones’. It is a reference to the hundreds of thousands of buffalo killed in the area but they have not completely disappeared. Today, they are a symbol of strength, courage and resilience, similar to that of the country’s Indigenous people.
Bigeagle-Kequahtooway says she will not stop here. She will continue to organize initiatives to bring back the buffalo including changing Dewdney Avenue to Buffalo Avenue.
The Buffalo People Arts Institute places second in this year’s Queen City Ex Parade.