FIRST NA­TIONS PRINCESS

As­tokomii Smith, of the Sik­sika First Na­tion, is crowned the Stam­pede’s First Na­tions Princess at the Car­riage House Inn on Sun­day. The 19-year-old said be­ing the first to be crowned since the name was changed from In­dian Princess is “truly an hon­our.”

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - YOLANDE COLE [email protected]­media.com

A newly crowned mem­ber of the Cal­gary Stam­pede roy­alty for 2019 has taken on the new ti­tle of First Na­tions Princess.

As­tokomii Smith, 19, was given the ti­tle at a cer­e­mony in Cal­gary on Sun­day.

She called be­ing the first to be se­lected un­der the new name “truly an hon­our.”

The de­ci­sion to stop us­ing the for­mer ti­tle — Cal­gary Stam­pede In­dian Princess — was made this year, fol­low­ing the re­nam­ing of the Cal­gary Stam­pede’s In­dian Vil­lage to El­bow River Camp.

“I think First Na­tion was a very good change for us and it sort of cre­ates that con­ver­sa­tion of why were we called In­dian, and why are we now called First Na­tion,” Smith said.

Vanessa Stif­farm, as­sis­tant pro­gram co-or­di­na­tor for El­bow River Camp, said both name changes had been un­der dis­cus­sion for the past few years among teepee own­ers who par­tic­i­pate in the Stam­pede each year.

“This was the year that we did an­other vote, and we re­ally wanted to change the name for this year,” Stif­farm said.

The 2018 princess, Cieran Starlight, wore crowns with both the for­mer and cur­rent ti­tle dur­ing the past year.

“I went from be­ing crowned 2018 In­dian Princess to rep­re­sent­ing a new role as a 2018 First Na­tions Princess,” Starlight said dur­ing the trans­fer cer­e­mony. “And I just wanted ev­ery­one to be clear that our mes­sage is the same. No mat­ter what our names are, or what we choose to call our­selves, our mes­sages and teach­ings of First Na­tions com­mu­ni­ties will al­ways be the same. And I’m glad I was able to bring my voice to the dis­cus­sion.”

Smith, who is from the Sik­sika First Na­tion, will rep­re­sent all five na­tions of Treaty 7 — Kainai, Tsuut’ina, Stoney Nakoda, Sik­sika and Pi­ikani — and El­bow River Camp at the Cal­gary Stam­pede. Dur­ing the next year, she is ex­pected to make ap­pear­ances lo­cally, na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to be able to rep­re­sent my peo­ple in a pos­i­tive way, and in a way that in­flu­ences oth­ers,” Smith said, not­ing through her role she hopes to ed­u­cate oth­ers about Indige­nous cul­ture.

She also hopes to raise aware­ness about men­tal health, af­ter her own ex­pe­ri­ence cop­ing with anx­i­ety.

“I’ve come a long way and I want to be able to talk about that in a pos­i­tive way, and make sure that peo­ple know that it’s not a weak­ness and that it should be ad­dressed, and it’s OK to talk about th­ese things,” she said.

Stif­farm said the name changes for both the Indige­nous camp and princess as­so­ci­ated with the Stam­pede have a lot to do with more re­cent teepee own­ers in the camp, many of whom come from a younger gen­er­a­tion.

She said un­til re­cently, the for­mer ti­tle of In­dian Vil­lage was kept in recog­ni­tion of Guy Wead­ick, who founded the Cal­gary Stam­pede and in­vited lo­cal First Na­tions to cel­e­brate their cul­tures and tra­di­tions there.

She be­lieves the name change for next year’s First Na­tions rep­re­sen­ta­tive “has a lot to do with rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and mov­ing for­ward, not just in Cal­gary but also through­out Canada.”

LEAH HEN­NEL

LEAH HEN­NEL

The 2019 First Na­tions Princess, 19-year-old As­tokomii Smith from the Sik­sika First Na­tion, calls her se­lec­tion “truly an hon­our.”

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