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An Indian Voice Heard Around the World

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The Indian story stands as one of the romantic and tragic chapters in Canadian history. Although this story hold facination, the white man would be hard pressed to find reason for pride in the forceful denial of former Indian freedoms and the uprooting of a native race from the soil to which it had an ancient claim. Tatanga Mani
Walking Buffalo of the Stonies
Copyright 1969 M.G. Hurtig Ltd.
208 pages.

In his later years, Walking Buffalo's adventures admittedly bore only a slight resemblance to those of his fellow Indians. He was granted both the opportunity and the responsibility of speaking throughout the world for the cause of brotherhood. Soon after the old chief's eighty-eighth birthday, Moral Rearmament workers enlisted his aid by proposing that he undertake a world tour to speak on behalf of peace to nations and peoples who were frantically arming themselves with more and more sophisticated weapons, atomic arms among them.

"How soon could you be ready to go?" they asked him.

"In a few minutes," he replied eagerly. He would simply wash his face, change his shirt, and be ready for the most extensive journey ever undertaken by a North American Indian. Because the tour organizers needed more time, however, the departure date was set for early October, 1959. Great Nephew Jimmy Kaquitts was also invited.

At Morley, Stoney councilors met to give the old man the benefit of their views on world affairs; then the entire tribe gathered for a big send-off. "The old man's going to see the world as no other Indian has ever seen it; maybe he'll even visit the Queen," they whispered excitedly.

Walking Buffalo's first stop was Mackinac Island. Then he went on to Ottawa where his party was welcomed by Prime Minister Diefenbaker. The chief and his friends continued on their way overseas, setting down first at Glasgow where Scottish hospitality overflowed. London was next. This old city, with more associations for men of letters and government than any other place in the world, was seen through Walking Buffalo's eyes as one of the white man's extremes in urbanization with its crowded conditions, smoky atmosphere, and absence of natural scenery. Here more than in Scotland, crowds gathered everywhere that Walking Buffalo appeared. When he paused to inspect the bronze lions at the base of the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square, he was soon surrounded by inquisitive cockneys, some of them eager to obtain authentic information about the art of scalping.

"London," the chief told a knot of listeners, "is a great city." He was glad to have seen the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London, but as a place to live, he preferred Morley, where there was still plenty of elbow room, along with the finest natural scenery in the world. At Morley, everybody had plenty of time to stop to talk. Here in this overcrowded part of the world, he noted, children lived in tenement houses and played in cramped spaces with neither grass nor trees in sight. "It's not right, raising kids so far from nature. I suppose your boys and girls have never seen pussy willows, robins building nests, or hillsides covered with crocuses. That pavement is all right for cars, but it's hard medicine for children.

"Hills are always more beautiful than stone buildings, you know. Living in a big city is an artificial existence. Lots of people hardly ever feel real soil under their feet, see plants growing except in flowerpots, 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."

Since the beginning of the trip, Walking Buffalo had secretly hoped to pay his respects to Queen Elizabeth, whom he had met officially on two previous occasions when she was touring in Canada. At the time of his London visit, however, a few weeks before the birth of Prince Andrew, the Queen was not receiving visitors. Alternatively, Walking Buffalo wanted to sign the visitors' book at Buckingham Palace. This the Queen's secretary was glad to arrange. The chief was invited to come at three o'clock.

As pleased as a boy with a new jackknife, the old Stoney took pains to make himself look as impressive as possible in his Indian costume, not forgetting to pin his two precious medals on his beaded jacket. Punctuality has never been characteristic of the Indian, but promptly at three o'clock, Walking Buffalo stepped from a brightly polished limousine in blazing Indian garb. Although it was probably the first time moccasined feet had ever trod the royal threshold, his reception could not have been more cordial. At the palace entrance, well-groomed footmen bowed soberly before admitting their distinguished visitor. A comfortable chair was brought for him to sit in at the desk where he would sign the visitors' book.

Nobody was in a hurry. Certainly the chief had no desire to shorten this experience. He relaxed to enjoy the spacious room with its fine pictures and elegant furniture, remarking with a grin, "This is a pretty good tipi."

As the proud and happy old Indian prepared to depart, representatives of the palace household accompanied him beyond the door. Standing like friends as the chiefs car drove away, they waved, wishing the old warrior a happy journey as he continued on his world travels.

"Be sure to give my regards to the Queen," he called.

Germany brought a quite different experience. There interest in North American Indians bordered on familiarity because of numerous books written earlier about them by a German novelist, Karl May. Born in 1842, May taught school, spent some time in jail, and then began writing at the age of thirty-two, devoting himself mainly to stories of distant lands he had never seen. Although he wrote without ever having set foot on the Western Hemisphere, he treated North American Indians extensively, depicting them as human beings with cunning, endurance, and nobility of character. His vivid descriptions made his books extremely popular, especially among young people, and his fictional characters like the Indian Winnetau promise to live in German memories forever.

When Walking Buffalo arrived in Germany, a companion, the Honourable Miles Phillimore, remarked, "It was as though Winnetau had come back to life to repay a nation's people for three quarters of a century of devoted affection.... Deep in the German soul is the ideal which Winnetau under Karl May's skill personifies, an ideal of honour, prowess, individual adequacy, and devotion to family."

"I remember the war years," Walking Buffalo philosophized. "We were led to hate all Germans. Now I think they are good people. I'd pitch my tent here anytime. I'll never hate anybody again. Hating hurts me more than it hurts the other fellow."

Walking Buffalo went to Bonn, where he was rushed from one reception to another. Asked if the pace were too fast and tiring for him, he replied, "No, I've lived close to nature, and nature's creatures are usually fit. If I had yielded to artificial living, I'd be soft, but I'm all right. Don't worry about me."

One of the German receptions was held at the Bundestag, the West German Parliament. The chief was escorted to the distinguished visitors' balcony by Dr. Preusker, vice-president of the Bundestag. As he entered the gallery in full Stoney regalia, an enthusiastic round of applause broke from members on the floor of the house. All parliamentary eyes were upon him, except those of one member who happened to be delivering a speech at that particular moment. Intent upon the serious business of public oration, this member, without taking his eyes from his manuscript, paused briefly for the applause, supposing it to be inspired by the excellence of his speech, bowed dutifully, and then went on reading his masterpiece, quite oblivious to the commanding personality in the gallery.

Upon leaving Germany, Walking Buffalo saw Denmark, Sweden, Lapland, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Switzerland in rapid-fire succession. Crowds everywhere were captivated by his spectacular personality. Each stop brought its own reward in the warm appreciation of people for the message of a man who had experienced nearly every reason for bitterness yet hated no one.


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