Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

When Bread-and-Circuses Backfires

June 7th, 2010 · No Comments


While researching a post about the ever-popular sport of wild cow milking, we came across a paper on the history of Native Canadian cowboys. A healthy chunk of the work is dedicated to the development of rodeo culture among Canada’s First Nations, who were often encouraged to engage in calf roping and bronco riding in lieu of participating in traditional pastimes. Yet on at least one occasion, the Canadian government seems to have forgotten that in order to be effective, bread-and-circuses inducements must deliver the goods:

According to Pete Standing Alone, an elder, rancher, actor, saddle-maker, and well-known cowboy from Blood Reserve, the first rodeo to take place in their community was in 1896. The federal government was making every effort to discourage the Blood people from taking part in the annual Sundance, and it organized a rodeo in hope of luring participants away from the Sundance ceremonies. As an added incentive, a few beef cattle were killed and the meat distributed among those who attended and took part in the rodeo. The cattle killed, however, were so skinny that when boiled there was hardly any meat left on the bones. An Indian boy born shortly after this rodeo was named Lean Boiled Meat, in memory of the poor quality meat that had been distributed at the rodeo that year.

Poor Lean Boiled Meat probably didn’t fare too well around the schoolyard. And we thought this girl we knew with the surname “Slutsky” had it rough.

(Image via the Glenbow Museum)

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