INDIAN. RELAY.: A photographic exhibition in Calgary 2019
EXHIBITION NOTES and DATES follow this post
In March, 2018, big metal diggers came to tear down the old house next door. We weren’t sad to see it go, given an “interesting” tenant, who had, for the preceding two years, made our day-to-day tense and unpleasant. it was so bad, and the landlord so unwilling to act, we finally contacted a few developers to see if they'd be interested in purchasing the lot next door. Wonder of wonders, within a month, a developer did buy the lot next door! When the sold sign went up three days after listing, we were thrilled. Two months later, said horrifying tenant boxed up his belongings and left.
The old dog lolled peacefully in the warm sun, enjoying the cool grass in the back yard. Eventually, I went out to bring him water, and to say hello to the crew. As I chatted to one of the men, I noticed he had an injury to his leg, and asked him how it had happened. “I came off a horse,” he explained, adding “At a race.” Intrigued, I asked what kind of racing, to which he replied, “Indian relay,” and, “You should come tomorrow; we’re racing at Strathmore.”
We did not know then how much this young man’s invitation to the relay would change our summer and our lives. We went, armed with cameras and a hope we’d have a chance to photograph our new friend. The atmosphere was electric, but as we were as yet uninitiated, we did not understand the excitement and intensity of this sport. As the grandstand began to fill, we could feel anticipation building.
On a whim, we asked the nearest official-looking person if we could cross the track and shoot from the infield. Yes, but hurry on; the horses and riders were coming in to the area in front of the grandstand.
Races last a bare three minutes; Four or five teams of three men with two stirred up and ready-to-run horses take their places in “boxes” delineated with flour lines whist the riders — braves, warriors, chiefs, and maiden racers — fight to keep their mounts held at the start line, waiting for the blast of the start horn. One hot second after that sound, the track is a furry of horseflesh, flying dirt, colour, heat, and screaming riders flashing by.
A bare minute later, they race full tilt towards the boxes, slowing at the last possible moment. The riders are in the air, flying off one still-running horse and bounding with astonishing strength and grace onto the next, then hell-bent-for-leather around the track again. Sweat and mud flying, they race into the boxes, and seconds later they’re off for the last round. Five heartbeats later they’re flying breakneck towards the finish line. The adrenaline is palpable.
We were hooked. In those three minutes, we didn’t want to be anywhere else but at the relay for the rest of the summer. We headed down to Kainai First Nation in early July for the rodeo and pow wow. To say I'd become a full-on relay groupie would be benign.
Rosso Coffee Roasters: July and August 2020: Rosso Inglewood and Rosso Ramsay
We have been short-listed to Exhibit at the Prince Takamado Gallery, Canadian Embassy, Tokyo: Watch this space!
With our deep thanks to Steven Wolf Tail and his mother and father, Wyonah and Irv Wolf Tail and to the Canadian Indian Relay Racing Association (CIRRA).
Keywords: Horse Racing, horses, Indian Relay, Indigenous Sports, photographic exhibition, Photography, photography exhibition Calgary, sports photography, sports photography in Alberta, Traditional Indigenous Sports
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