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The Stoney Nakoda Nation Profiles - Walking Buffalo (George McLean)

Walking Buffalo

Lots of people hardly even feel real soil under their feet, see plants grow except in flower pots, or get far enough beyond the street lights to catch the enchantment of a night sky studded with stars. When people live far from scenes of the Great Spirit’s making, it’s easy for them to forget his laws.

- Walking Buffalo, 1958

To the missionary who adopted him, he was George McLean, but in the Nakoda language, he was known as Tatanga Mani, and to the world he was Walking Buffalo. Walking Buffalo is noted not only for his leadership of the Nakoda First Nation, but also for his life mission of peace, and for his work to document, preserve, and defend traditional First Nations life and values.

A mere six years before the signing of Treaty 7 at Blackfoot Crossing, Walking Buffalo was born in 1871 near the Bow River in what is now southern Alberta. He was still very young when his mother died, and he was adopted by a Methodist missionary named John McLean who gave him the McLean surname and the first name George. He was educated at the Morley orphanage school until he turned sixteen, and then he was transferred to the Red Deer Industrial School. He pursued additional education for several years at the St. John’s College in Winnipeg. He worked as a scout for the Mounted Police in Calgary, and later did some work as a blacksmith in Calgary before returning to life on the Morley reserve, where he worked as an interpreter for the Stoney Council. Among the Nakoda, he became a medicine man and a revered Elder whose philosophy was rooted in First Nations spirituality and tradition. In 1920, he was elected Chief of the Nakoda First Nation.

Walking Buffalo advocated a spirit of peace and understanding among the various First Nations and also between First Nations and the peoples of the world. In 1958, he and a small group of First Nations People from Alberta travelled the world, spreading the philosophy of peace and Native wisdom. In four months the group visited twenty-seven countries, speaking words of peace and cultural harmony with the natural world. Uncompromising in his beliefs, Walking Buffalo stressed the need for people to accept First Nations People for who they are. He died on 26 December, 1967, but his words still stir the heart in the present day.

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