By Wayne Litke
Thinking about the Battle of the Little Big Puck as I walked across Centennial Park toward the town’s skating rink, I felt a wave of happiness sweep over me as I recalled how the memory of bloody battle was transformed into a goodwill hockey game. It came about thanks to creative minds and a lot of local enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I missed the opening of this year’s game and the honour that was paid to individuals who came up with the novel idea of a hockey game between Indians and cowboys.
The original event, the Battle of Little Big Horn (also known as Custer’s last stand) took place in 1876 in Montana when the U.S. Cavalry, led by George Custer, attacked a Sioux camp. However, the soldiers soon found themselves outnumbered and the aggressors quickly became the victims of Crazy Horse and his warriors. At the end of the day, Custer and his 200-plus soldiers were dead. The humiliating defeat was followed by a blame game in the Cavalry and U.S. government as all parties tried to deflect any responsibility they may have had in the massacre.
Flash forward 100 years and travel north of the 49th parallel and you will find cowboys and Indians peacefully co-existing in the Cypress Hills and Maple Creek area. It was good relations and a desire to have a little fun that led to the idea of a multi-cultural recreational event called Battle of the Little Big Puck. I suppose some U.S. residents might object to the game, but I have never heard of any complaints so far. The only criticism I have heard is from a caucasian (a.k.a. white man) who felt the game reflected poorly on First Nations because native players are called Indians. However, I have never heard a Nekaneet player make such a comment. In reality, if anyone is going to be offended, should it not be the citizens of India whose name was mistakenly used in North America.
On a serious note, a terrible tragedy occurred last week that resulted in the death of two toddlers on the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation. The children died in a house fire which remains the subject of much debate since the neighbouring fire department at Loon Lake did not respond to a 9-1-1 call for assistance. The village canceled its firefighting agreement with the reserve as a $3,300 bill dating back to last year had not been paid. The children’s death sparked a death threat against the fire chief and a blame game that went all the way to the federal government for their lack of funding for fire prevention on reserves.
The Loon Lake fire chief said it was unclear if the children could have been saved if they had responded since the RCMP arrived to find the house on fire and the father holding the bodies of his two children. Media reports immediately after the fire seemed to direct attention at the fire department’s inaction and a lack of communication between the village and the reserve.
However, as more detailed reports surfaced it became clear there were a variety of factors at play. For example, the reserve had purchased a used fire truck a few years ago, but it was apparently never equipped so that it could connect to local fire hydrants. Also, it appears that adequate training of firemen at the reserve had not occurred.
At the federal level, each reserve receives funding for fire services and can spend the money as it chooses. According to a story in the Leader-Post, Makwa Sahgaiehcan received $40,000 last year and spent its budget largely on fire prevention in homes, which is not a poor decision in my estimation. It is unfortunate that their fire truck was not better equipped and an unpaid bill prevented the neighbouring fire department from responding. From my experience, it seems that communicating well at the best of times is not easy and small issues somehow easily grow into contentious matters.
It is sad that it often takes death – in this case the death of two children – to cause people to really sit up and realize the repercussions of their actions or inactions. On that note, I really appreciated the candid comments by Makwa Sahgaiehcan Chief Richard Ben. He said the tragedy is a wake-up call for everyone – all First Nations in Canada, in regards to being proactive, especially when it comes to fire safety.
On a lighter note, I was reminded Saturday night that texting can get a person into a lot of trouble very quickly. One of my sisters is going through a difficult time, so I e-mailed her some recent photos of our adorable granddaughter in hopes of cheering her up. Since my sister does not check her e-mail regularly, I decided to send her a text informing her that she had mail.
My text stated, “If you cannot sleep, check your email.
Immediately after sending the text message I realized it went to a wrong individual. I quickly sent a second message stating, “Sorry, sent to wrong person.”
I received a curt reply: 🙁 🙁 !! If you cannot sleep, don’t text the wrong person!
I will definitely be more careful in the future, so I do not convey the wrong message to any other office staff.
One of the funniest local text messages I have heard about was the result of a spell-checker auto-correcting a word (in this case a name) that it did not identify. The message stated, “Manslaughter at the optometrist office at 4 p.m.” Thankfully cool heads prevailed, Dr. Thienes and his staff were unharmed and no one phoned 9-1-1.