Rodeo goes beyond sport for Sask. Indigenous family

The roots of rodeo run deep for Nicole Bear's family, and the practice goes beyond a sport and into the spiritual.

Nicole Bear says there is a spiritual element within the sport

Nicole Bear said this photo of her son, Trinity, was taken at a steer riding event. Trinity won the round the first day, qualified to ride the bounty bull and placed second overall, she said. (Submitted)

Trinity Bear sported his new ribbon shirt under a worn leather jacket for the first time at the Canadian Western Agribition high school rodeo on Monday. 

The bright blue shirt was made by the 13-year-old's kokom, his grandmother. He had been asking about one for a while, and so she said she would make one in time for the youth exhibition in Regina.

"I'm excited to wear it; happy," he said shyly. "It's like a ribbon shirt. It's kind of traditional." 

Nicole Bear, Trinity's mom, said the rodeo is a way of life for the family, who are from the Chacachas First Nation near Whitewood, Sask. 

"It's part of our Indigenous culture. It's the horse culture, so for us it's second nature. It's part of who we are," Nicole said. 

Trinity Bear, 13, dreams of going professional in his rodeo career. When asked how he plans to stay on track and not get hurt he's learned to 'just ride.' (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

"There's a connection there to the animal. It's not just doing a sport. There's also a spiritual element to it." 

Nicole said that's a big part of why her family is embedded in the rodeo. 

As people learn more about treaties and reconciliation and First Nations people in general, they're going to find that the horse culture is part of who we are.- Nicole Bear

Nicole is Métis and used to barrel race. Her Cree husband was a professional bull rider, and she said her husband's father and moshom (grandfather) were both cowboys.

Trinity was participating in a long list of events at the youth rodeo, like steer riding, chute dogging, team roping and goat tying. 
Trinity Bear wore his new ribbon shirt for the first time at Agribition's high school rodeo. (Submitted)

He said his favourite is steer riding because it gives him the most adrenaline. 

Nicole said while not everyone might understand the connection Indigenous people have with the rodeo life, awareness is growing. 

"I think as people learn more about treaties and reconciliation and First Nations people in general, they're going to find that the horse culture is part of who we are," she continued. 

Nicole Bear said her son's grandmother was in the stands watching him participate in the rodeo wearing his new ribbon shirt. 'She was so proud,' Bear said. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Rodeo events can also help younger people remember the connection First Nations and Métis people have with the land, she said, adding it's also important they connect with agricultural activities. 

"At one time, our farmers in our area were some of the most prosperous farmers, so it's really good for our kids to remember that," she added.

Furthermore, Nicole said there is healing to be found through horses and animals. She works with the Yorkton Tribal Council and encourages schools to use animals in activities. 

"Sometimes, when we can't figure things out, people-to-people, that horse has a way of just connecting with that child," she said. 

The 2017 edition of Agribition wraps up on Saturday.