For the first time in two decades, the Calgary Stampede has crowned a member of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation a First Nations Princess.
Margaret Holloway, a 22-year-old who is from Chininki First Nation, was crowned on Oct. 29 for a one-year term to begin on January 1, 2024.
Holloway’s family have been the longtime owners of Tipi 24 at the Elbow River Camp, and Margaret has served in multiple volunteer and ambassadorial roles for the camp at many Stampedes.
“My family has been a part of the Calgary Stampede for decades now. They were one of the first tipis put up at the Stampede, and now that I get to represent Tipi 24 during my reign as princess, I couldn’t be more happy,” she said.
“I’m just so excited to take part as an ambassador at the Stampede, and it’s going to be an amazing year.”
Chrissy Snow was the previous First Nation Princess from Stoney Nakoda, during her reign in 2002.
“It’s been 22 years since a Stoney Nakoda princess and I’m actually 22 years old, so it kind of feels like it was meant to be,” said Holloway.
“Coming from a very traditional family from Stoney Nakoda, I’m so grateful that I now get the chance to represent that side of Treaty Seven, but also acknowledging the other sides, because we all come together every Stampede and I’m just so excited to be a part of it.”
She said that she was particularly excited to share the cultural differences and language of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation.
“We all come from the same place in Canada but we all have our unique ways of doing things,” Holloway said.
Holloway pointed to an example of her crowning ceremony where Chiniki Chief Aaron Young along with her mother wrapped her in a blanket and gave her a little push forward, symbolizing the way a mother eagle will push a young eagle forward to fly on their own.
“Chief Aaron being here was an amazing touch on top. I’m so grateful that he took the time out of his also very busy schedule to be with me today, and blessed me on my amazing journey.”
Year-long ambassadorship for Stampede
Holloway will be taking over the ambassadorial role for the Calgary Stampede and for Indigenous culture at the Stampede from 2023 First Nations Princess Alayiah Wolf Child.
She will be joined by the next Calgary Stampede Princess, who will be chosen on Nov. 1, during the final royalty competition at the Nutrien Event Centre.
Alex Laidlaw, Chair of the First Nations Event Committee said that it was exciting for the Stampede to have a Stoney Nakoda Princess for the upcoming year.
“It’s wonderful to have Margaret not only as a representative of Stoney Nakoda, but as someone who’s grown up in the camp. It’s wonderful to have her as a family member of a tipi holder, and someone who has grown up with Stampede to be able to take on this role,” said Laidlaw.
“She’s competed in the meat cutting competition, and she’s performed on our stage daily. I’ve gotten to know her family over the last 10 years, and it’s wonderful to have someone who’s already so familiar with stampede and who knows the camp.”
The 2024 crowning ceremony eschewed the usual final competition and judging portion, owing to the number of candidates who dropped out of the running throughout the competition.
“What ended up was just life got in the way. It’s a large commitment, and we had some who were going back to school, some got job offers they couldn’t refuse, and out of fairness to Margaret and the wonderful candidate that she was, we decided we couldn’t reopen the competition at that point.”
Laidlaw said that the Calgary Stampede’s royalty re-alignment which began three years ago to place the Calgary Stampede Princess and First Nation Princess at equal levels of ambassadorial importance, was working well for the organization.
“I think the last two duos are a testament to that: the strong bond that Sikapinakii and Jenna formed two years ago, and the strong bond we saw from Alayiah and Sarah this past year,” Laidlaw said
“It’s been incredible to be able to work in that way and to be able to have that duo serve as ambassadors for the Stampede.”