Gordon First Nation
Gordon First Nation faces the same dilemma as others receiving funds from the First Nations Trust. Determining the priority for use of the funds is not always easy. But for Ed Bitternose whose herd of paints graze not far from the Administration Office, it's clear, providing support to their youth Horsemanship and Rodeo Program is a good decision. Two small girls waited patiently at Ed's barn as he explained the program. They were anxious to show us their "practice horse," which turns out to be a sawhorse holding a saddle and reins. They stand quietly near but already display that sense of confidence and calm being around horses seems to promote.
Successes have been both big and small in the Horsemanship and Rodeo Program. Youth rode tall and proud in the grand entry at the Kawacatoose Powwow. They also formed an honour guard for Prime Minister Paul Martin when he visited Gordon. To their delight the Prime Minister left his car and walked along side the young riders. Kevin Pelletier from the program made it to the USA National Rodeo Finals - his picture was displayed with pride in the Administration Office for months after the ride.
Not all the youth involved have access to horses outside of their lessons, but Ed is confident that the time spent learning about horses can have positive effects on everything from self-discipline to team building. The program is going well and more kids from other reserves are interested joining.
Some troubled youth have learned about establishing positive relationships through working with the horses, coming to understand that they can step out of the attitude or behaviour others might expect of them and establish their own sense of self, understanding that it isn't force that makes a good horseman or a rewarding relationship. They learn there's a special connection between horse and rider, a bond that deepens as they gain confidence and respect for each other. It's an opportunity to learn about courage, firm but gentle, and about parallels between animal and human behaviour, and that each may have fears to overcome before they can work well together.