On January 12, 2015 the Calgary Stampede lost a valued member of its family with the passing of Tsuu T’ina Lifetime Chief and famous cowboy Gordon Crowchild.

Crowchild was born on the Tsuu T’ina Nation Reserve in 1929. He competed in his first Stampede at the age of 15 in the Boys’ Steer Riding competition. Crowchild grew up admiring Aboriginal cowboys Jimmy Wells, Fred Gladstone, Frank Many Fingers and Tom Three Persons, and he “wanted to grow up to be a cowboy.”[1] Later in life, he recalled that he “used to watch the Calgary Stampede from the Grandstand side across the race track and when I [saw] the Cowboy[s] compete I always thought in my mind someday I’m going be like that man[,] because many Indian Native boys took part in the Calgary Stampede.”[2]

He followed his father, Tsuu T’ina Chief David Crowchild, into the chuckwagon races, and rode as an outrider for his dad’s team. Then from 1950-1953, he drove his own chuckwagon team with his half-brother Edwin Crane. In those years, Crowchild also began competing in rodeo events, which over his career included Wild Cow Milking, Steer Decorating, Steer Wrestling and the Wild Horse Race. In 1971 he was named the Stampede High-Point Champion, and he was honoured by the Stampede as a Pioneer of Rodeo in 1995.

Gordon Crowchild 2

Calgary Stampede Wild Horse Race 1982
Courtesy of the Huish Family

Crowchild was Chief of the Tsuu T’ina Nation during the 1970s, and throughout his life he was an advocate for Aboriginal cowboys. Longtime Stampede Indian Events committee member Fred Saunders remembers Crowchild as being, “very supportive of First Nations rodeo cowboys and willing to share advice and interesting stories from his vast experience and knowledge of the sport.”[3] In 1962, Crowchild helped found the All Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association, which is known today as the Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association (IRCA). He was both founder and competitor, and in 1971 was the IRCA Steer Wrestling Champion.

Gordon Crowchild 1

Gordon Crowchild b. 1929 d. 2015

Gordon will be remembered for his stories, his sense of humour, his love of rodeo and his commitment to his Tsuu T’ina Nation. He was a cowboy through and through, and embodied the true spirit of the sport. He once said that when his cowboy hat wasn’t on his head, it was sitting turned up, because then “you’re open to the world showing your love.”

Gordon Crowchild competed in rodeo events well into his 60s. A number of years ago he spoke to one of our Stampede School classes about his history and connections with rodeo, where he told them: “Children, I’m a Cowboy. One thing… when I leave this world, I’ll leave it as a Cowboy.”[4]

He will be missed.

 

 

[1] Stampede School, “Gordon Crowchild talks about competing,” Our Roots, http://galileo.org/stampedeschool/accessible/crowchild_about_competing.htm

[2] Fred Saunders to Author, January 14, 2015.

[3] Jim Goodstriker, “Veteran cowboy still champ in pro Indian rodeo,” Windspreaker 11:5 (1993).

[4] Stampede School, “Gordon Crowchild growing up,” Our Roots, http://galileo.org/stampedeschool/accessible/crowchild_growing_up.htm.