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