The Blue Bombers, 2019 Gray Cup champions, have been invested into the Order of the Buffalo Hunt, which is one of Manitoba’s highest honors and awarded to those who demonstrate leadership and service.
Willie Jefferson — the defensive end of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with the stature of a B-57 who regularly knocks down opposing passes — has become one of our province’s greatest ambassadors. During games, Jefferson regularly turns to the camera and says, “Come to Winnipeg! And after helping the Bombers win another Gray Cup last year, Jefferson became a true Manitoban when he moved his wife and daughter up north to settle permanently in our city.
The Métis buffalo hunters of the 1800s, after whom the Order is named, followed the Red River Trail south from the community of Red River in long wagon trains before turning west. They were a highly regulated strike force, much like the Bombers. The captain-elect would remind avid hunters of the Eight Laws of the Buffalo Hunt.
● Law 2: No one should veer off, lag behind or pass by without permission.
● Law 3: No party or person shall run the buffalo before the general order.
Jefferson would have had no problem complying. He continually puts the good of the team ahead of his individual achievements and does not hesitate to pass on all the praise to his coach and his “brothers” around him.
Jefferson’s deserved place in the order is also demonstrated by how quickly he acknowledges God for all his help. Modeling this spirit of dependency, former buffalo hunters asked the local bishop to pray for them as they departed.
The Bishop of Saint-Boniface granted his blessing, then retired from the scene as quickly as dignity permitted. The cacophony of screams and screams that ensued as the expedition set out could have come from the pit of the damned. The unearthly din emanated from ox-drawn vehicles, two-wheeled affairs known as Red River Carts.
We wanted to follow the lead of the buffalo hunters in asking for the blessing as we began our own creaky ox cart journey. (Truth be told, I wouldn’t take a step out of my front door without the hand of God guiding us, let alone an eight-week trip in a tired old time machine.) J asked several people to pray. Jim Bear, a descendant of Chief Peguis, and James Bone represented the Anishinaabe people, whose traditional lands we will cross. They prayed for us and dedicated us, cart and ox to the Creator with a stain.
Guy Gosselin, a descendant of Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière and Marie-Anne Gaboury, represented the Métis, who were the developers and drivers of the Red River Carts. Andrew Micklefield, himself a first-generation Canadian and MLA for Rossmere, recognized that newcomers to the Red River would become dependent on the goods moving up and down the Red River Trail.
It all happened in the hallowed ground — Upper Fort Garry — where Louis Riel established Manitoba’s first government. Where he followed the example of the bison hunters by invoking the blessing of the Creator on a new province. And integrate the name of the Creator — Manitou — into the very identity of our province.
● Law 1: No bison should be hunted on the Sabbath day. Again, we hope to follow the model of the buffalo hunt. In addition to taking Sundays to rest, we want to take Thursdays to write. We have no desire to be associated with offenders.
● Law 5: For a first infraction of these laws, the offender will have his saddle and bridle cut off.
A few weeks ago, my son, Simeon, and I were driving down said boulevard and having a conversation about his possible name change. Sim asked me if I knew of any notable aboriginal women in Manitoba history. I saw the irony in where he was heading with that.
The first name that comes to mind is that of a young Dene woman named Thanadelthur. As a teenager, Thanadelthur was kidnapped by a Cree gang. She lived among her captors for over a year, learning their Cree language and looking for an opportunity to escape. It was almost winter when she got her chance. By the time she ran into York Factory goose chasers, she was starving and barely alive. They took her back to their post, where she learned a third language, English. When someone was needed to make peace between the Dene and Cree peoples, guess who was the logical choice?
She left York Factory with 150 Cree delegates who, due to the difficulties of the journey, had dwindled to a dozen when they approached the homeland of Thanadelthur. Thanadelthur told the others to wait 10 days while she went in search of her people. To her horror, she finally found them – 400 Dene warriors on their way to exact revenge on the Cree.
For two days, with desperate pleas, rebukes and logical reasoning, Thanadelthur tried to convince his Dene to make peace with their enemies. Eventually her voice gave out but she had succeeded. On the third day, the resolute warriors accompanied him to meet the delegates who awaited them. The two parties smoked a pipe and tied the peace. A peace “imposed” (to quote the writings) by a young Dene woman.
A woman of courage and peace. An ambassador of reconciliation. I would say Thanadelthur is a name worthy of a south Winnipeg boulevard.
Terry Doerksen and his wife Patty left Winnipeg on May 17. They were due to cross the US border on May 26.