Legends of our Times (UBC $45)
In 1912, as many as 2,000 Indians participated in the first Calgary Stampede, including Tom Three Persons, the only Canadian to win first prize in any of the rodeo events. In 1916 Jackson Sundown became the first Indian to win the world bucking championship.
Three Persons and Sundown were part of a venerable tradition of Indians who, since the mid-1800s, had applied their skills at herding horses to take advantage of new economic opportunities in ranching.
Produced in conjunction with a touring Canadian Museum of Civilization art exhibit, Legends of our Times (UBC $45) by Metis curator Morgan Baillargeon and Leslie Tepper deconstructs the "Indian versus cowboy" stereotype by focussing on Indian cowboys, their involvement in rodeos and their contributions to ranching.
While the romantic ideal of the lonesome white cowboy inspired countless Hollywood films and a popular music genre, the romantic ideal of the handsome Indian rodeo star led Buffy Sainte-Marie to write her 1971 pop song, 'He's an Indian Cowboy in the Rodeo'.
"There was a time in the early '70s when I got pretty heartsick at doing city concerts," she recalls, "where the audience knew nothing about the pride and joy and beauty and fun, only the pain... 'He's An Indian Cowboy in the Rodeo' is one of the 'brag about the people' songs I wrote in consequence of that."
Legends differs from a previous study, Peter Iverson's When Indians Became Cowboys because it is restricted to 15 Plains tribes and five Plateau cultures and because it presents the words and works of the Plains, Plateau and Metis ranchers and cowboys themselves. Contributors to Legends of our Times include artists George Littlechild and Allen Sapp, Metis poet Gregory Scofield and ethnologist James Teit.
Groups considered to be members of the Plateau culture are the Salish and Sahaptin language speakers, who include the Stl'atl'imx (Lillooet), Secwepemc (Shuswap), Okanagan, Coeur d'Alene, Salish (Flathead), Nez Perce and Nlaka'pamux (Thompson).