Message to Louis Riel from Chief Big Plume (February 26, 2010) Thank you very much. I bring you all greetings on behalf of the elders, the council and all the people of Tsuu T’ina.
My name is Sandford Big Plume. I am the Chief of the Tsuu T’ina Nation. We are the people who live just on the edge of the city of Calgary, over to the west, on a large area of land that we chose more than 125 years ago.
We are your neighbours, your friends, your sports team-mates, and now fellow students.
I’m sure you all have learned something about the history of First Nations people in Canada, and Alberta. So, you’ll be happy to hear that I’m not here today to give you a history lesson, you get enough of that I’m sure.
I am here to talk to you about two things. Education, and friendship.
First, education. My message is simple. It doesn’t matter if you are First Nations, or not. New to Canada, or from a family with a long history here. We all share something in common, and that is the critical need to stay focussed on education.
The future is happening fast. Change is happening faster today than any previous generation could have possibly imagined. I don’t know exactly what your future will look like. But I do know the future will look very, very different than it does now. And you have two choices.
You can choose not to take education seriously. In which case the future will be scary, full of changes you won’t fully understand. Full of missed opportunities. Or, you can take advantage of the incredible opportunities that you have as a student here, and beyond in high school and in post-secondary, to soak up knowledge, and embrace change. Then, your future not only belongs to you. You will be able to create the future.
Today, we talk of all kinds of differences between people. Colour, race, gender, language. But let me make a prediction. In the future – your future, the real differences will be between two kinds of people. Those who chose to educate themselves, and those who do not. That will be the biggest dividing line between people. Choose the right side. Work hard. Educate yourselves.
Next, friendship. The history that exists between Calgarians and Tsuu T’ina people is as old as Calgary itself. We have a long history of working together, trading, celebrating the Stampede, and living side by side.
Sometimes, even the best of neighbours can have bad days. But good neighbours, in the long run, become friends. Good friends.
That’s why I am here today. First, to say thank you. Thank you to the Calgary Board of Education. To the teachers and staff of Louis Riel School. For demonstrating day after day a commitment to all the young people in your care, for whom you work so hard to ensure they are prepared for the future.
To the youth here, I thank you for welcoming Tsuu T’ina students as your classmates, and friends.
Louis Riel School is the home of the Buffalos. And to us, the Buffalo is about our way of life. We used the Buffalo for food of course, but also helped to develop the early economy of the city of Calgary by trading in Buffalo skin. There could be no better symbol of the relationship between Calgary, and Tsuu T’ina, than the buffalo.
So I’m pleased today to present this Buffalo head. Please accept this in the spirit in which it is given. A spirit of friendship. Thank you.