Among the thrills at this year’s Calgary Stampede was the inaugural Lady Warrior Race, a women-only bareback horserace. While this is the first Lady Warrior race at the famous rodeo event, the Indian Relay or Indigenous Relay made its debut at the Stampede in 2017. Both races are steeped in tradition, going back centuries to when tribes competed in horse races to win buffalo hides, horses, and other valuables.
Flash-forward to 2023 and indigenous women are thrilled to have their own event, not only to showcase their riding chops, but also to educate Canadians about indigenous culture as part of reconciliation. “There’s just so many different things that Indigenous people are now openly sharing because back in the day, even our ceremonies were outlawed by the Canadian government and we weren’t allowed to be who we are,” Tonya Crowchild, manager of the TK Farrier Services Indian Relay, told the CBC. “To come to where we are today, to be able to be proud and to share who we are is really, really important.”
For Lita Crawler, a 21-year-old competitor, getting the chance to ride in a Lady Warrior race at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth was a dream come true. “When I was a little girl, I always wanted to compete at the Calgary Stampede,” she told the media outlet. “I never thought I’d be here riding in the races.”
The Indigenous Relay has been a crowd pleaser from the get-go, but Crowchild thinks the Lady Warrior race is an even bigger draw. “So far, the response to the women’s race has been phenomenal,” she told the reporter. “They cheer loud for relay, but they cheer louder for the Lady Warrior.”
Watch a Lady Warrior race here: