Hi everyone! This is Cieran Starlight, the 2018 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess. As the Calgary Stampede approaches, and from having spent nine months as Stampede Royalty already, I’m feeling a strong sense of gratitude for this opportunity and a call to reflect on my experiences. I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you in this blog on what it means to me to be the Stampede Indian Princess, and how growing up in a tipi-owning family helped shape the person I am today.

This is me in one of my Pow Wow outfits at Indian Village!

To me, Indian Village was all about the connections I made. Some of my best friends were made in Indian Village. I would look forward to Stampede every year where I would be able to dance and laugh with my friends that I hadn’t seen all year. Camping at Indian Village also meant my family and I would be able to see old friends and new faces with each coming year, as almost all the locals would make their way to Stampede at least once. But my favourite part about staying in the Village was meeting the new people who would visit. The Calgary Stampede is so well known worldwide that it was no surprise to hear many different accents and languages every day. I always felt honoured to share our dances, regalia and friendship with international visitors.

Here I am, second from the right, with some of my friends from Indian Village that I looked forward to seeing every year!

Growing up in Indian Village provided me with such a strong foundation in my culture; this helped me feel confident, engaged with my ancestors, and allowed me to find expression through my history. One example of this was being able to participate in the Kids Day Parade and Pow Wow. This is an afternoon of celebrating the younger generations. The Village hosts a mini Pow Wow and I always particularly liked it because it was a day of dancing with kids my age who were my cousins or classmates. These small but significant events showed me how my culture and community impacted my growth as a Tsuut’ina woman positively throughout the years at the Indian Village.

This was me participating in one of the youth Pow Wows!

The Indian Princesses were always some of the strongest women and watching them as I grew up really inspired me to find that inner strength myself. And now, despite having been in this role for nine months, it still feels surreal to have this honour of being the 2018 Indian Princess. When I saw the Indian Princess when I was younger, I wanted to be able to greet the audience with poise as each of them did every year. Now as Indian Princess, I knew that my journey in their footsteps would be tough to follow, and I am just so humbled that I know I am supported by women who are graceful and inspiring knowledge keepers.

As 2018 Indian Princess I like that I can show our younger Indigenous generations that dreams do come true and we can achieve whatever we set our minds to. I’m lucky that I was surrounded by strong role models within my family and my life that always encouraged me to pursue those dreams. I hope that I can inspire young people in my time as Indian Princess so that they can feel that they are supported and that their goals matter.

Helping the younger generation was always important to me – here I am dancing with one of the Tiny Tots who are in a special parade for ages six years old and younger.

Thursday, June 21, 2018 is National Indigenous Peoples Day and I am thrilled to share that the Calgary Stampede has partnered with the University of Calgary to host Campfire Chats tonight in ENMAX Park; everyone in the community is invited to attend.

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Then, in just a few short weeks, ENMAX Park will be transformed into Indian Village’s home during the Stampede. I want to encourage everyone to come to Indian Village to watch our dancing and visit with our people. Our gift at the Indian Village to the world is to show you our ways as they are still being taught today. The dancing is for all the visitors who travel near and far to celebrate our culture with us. One of my favourite ways of getting to know locals is by visiting the craft booths where I would buy many pairs of earrings each year. All the items are authentically made by local indigenous artisans who run the entrepreneur businesses all year round – so I also encourage everyone to visit the booths and support our community if you see something you like.

2018 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess

Indigenous cultures across the globe are so unique, each with their own distinct dialect, ceremonies, and teachings. The same can be said about the Tsuut’ina, Kainai, Siksika, Piikani, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations of southern Alberta. All of these differences is what makes us so special across Canada and can also bring new teachings to non-Indigenous peoples worldwide.

I believe it’s important we support and learn from each other as human beings so we may grow together and bring back our traditional knowledge for future generations – so thank you for reading this blog and allowing me to share my culture with you.

My family’s tipi.