Face to Face
This summer I had the honour of visiting the Siksika First Nation in Alberta. I’ve found that, outside of Alberta, few people know about the Blackfoot. I hoped to show case a bit of their unique First Nation culture while I was out there.
The first Elder I had lined up to talk about Blackfoot beliefs, and their connection to the land, backed out on the day of the interview due to health issues. We wanted him to take us out on the land to show us some places important to the Siksika people, but his feet were too swollen to oblige. Thankfully, my old boss, Paul Melting Tallow, was able to introduce me to a member of the Horn Society, Clarence “Agar” Wolfleg. Almost the first thing Agar said to me was that he had a feeling someone would be looking for him that day.
Clarence had grown up in a traditional fashion, with no electricity and with a heavy reliance on the land. He was sent to residential school. On reaching adulthood, he signed up for the Canadian Armed forces, took parachute training, and was dropped in Cyprus as part of a peacekeeping mission. On returning home, Agar eventually stepped into a leadership role in his community as a Councillor.
He is an accomplished man and his military demeanor is obvious when you meet him. But there is also a kindness there too. A kindness that he says is a crucial stipulation to being a member of a traditional society.
Once we had a new interviewee, the location for the interview became the next question. It was suggested, as we were talking about Siksika spirituality, that we could use the Sundance Grounds. I was more than a bit leery of this, given the sacredness of the area and the feeling some people have towards cameras in these places. I was assured if an offering and a prayer were made, then the appropriate protocols would be met and there would be no problem with us shooting.
After sitting down in the bright sunlight of the prairie, Agar’s knowledge of Siksika spirituality became very evident. We talked for about two hours. Unfortunately, I can only fit about 22 minutes into a Face to Face episode. I hope to use parts of Mr Wolfleg’s other thoughts when I put together an episode, using clips from a range of interviews, on what it means to be an indigenous leader.
An occurring theme in our interview with Agar is the idea of thankfulness. Gratitude is a very big part of Clarence Wolfleg’s prayers and beliefs.
I can’t help but feel a similar sense of thankfulness for his teachings and the welcome I received on Siksika.