Story by Clint Buehler
BLOOD RESERVE, Alberta. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has a new name and honour, courtesy of the Blood Indian Tribe of Southern Alberta.
Stelmach was dubbed “Star Chief” in a traditional chieftainship ceremony and headdress transfer this past summer on the Blood’s sacred Sun Dance grounds.
“I am overwhelmed by this honour,” Stelmach said at the ceremony. “I have great respect for the rich culture and traditions of Alberta’s First Nations people. They are an essential part of Alberta’s history and our province’s future.
“It is truly humbling to be here with all of you today, to become an honourary member of the Blood Tribe, and to be part of your most sacred ceremony.
“As a man of Ukrainian descent, I have great respect for your commitment to maintaining your traditions and culture, and passing them on to your youth.
“Alberta is home to many special communities where culture and traditions provide us with strength and values and give our lives greater meaning.
“But no community has deeper roots in these western prairies than yours.
“This is truly a special gift to me, and my family, to be welcomed into your community, and to become a part of your family. I accept this Blood name that you have given me with great joy, and I will carry it proudly for the rest of my life.
“I am committed to building upon the Alberta government’s long-standing good relations with First Nations people and providing opportunities to ensure their full participation in Alberta’s economy. I will always cherish this special honour from the Blood Tribe.
“I will continue to work hard to build on the good relations between the Blood Tribe and he Government of Alberta. By strengthening our spirit of friendship and cooperation we will ensure even greater prosperity for the Bloods and all Albertans.
“The Blood people are pleased to adopt Premier Stelmach into our tribe with a traditional chieftenship ceremony, said Blood Tribal Chief Charles Weasel Head, who was responsible for bestowing this honour on the premier.
“We are proud of our culture, our heritage and our identity. We are equally proud to share all of this with Alberta’s premier and welcome him into the Blackfoot nation.”
The two-hour ceremony took place on the Blood’s sacred Sun Dance grounds near Standoff in southwestern Alberta. The premier’s family participated in the traditional ceremony which featured Native drumming, dancing and story telling.
As part of the chieftainship ceremony, Blood Elder Pete Standing Alone served as the premier’s spiritual guide, “capturing” him, painting his face, leading him in a dance, and giving him a Blood name.
The premier was also presented with a traditional headdress as a symbol of his new position.
More than 2,000 people were at the ceremony at the Sun Dance camp where some of the traditional ceremonies of the Blood people are held. The ritual reaffirms tribal membership and ensures prosperity for another year.
The 10,000-member Blood tribe occupies 540 square miles of land south of Fort McLeod, the largest Indian reserve in Alberta, and one of the largest in Canada.