By Tawnya Plain Eagle
Every year one lucky girl is selected as the new ambassador the Calgary Stampede Elbow River Camp.
Six girls from different nations across Treaty 7 are standing on stage in front of a packed room anxiously waiting to hear their name called as the next Calgary Stampede First Nation’s princess.
When Astokomii Smith’s name was called as the winner, Jesse Bad Eagle kept a smile on her face, happy for her new friend.
“I knew she was going to win,” Bad Eagle said.
Bad Eagle has been wanting to compete for the title since she was 20 years old.
Now 25, she had built up the courage to compete in this highly anticipated competition.
“I didn’t even know what to expect,” Bad Eagle said after she sent in her application.
“I didn’t even think I would get a callback,” she said.
From orientation to the crowing the contestants are expected to attend events in Calgary while being able to mingle with complete strangers.
This is a vital practice since it will be a major part of their duties as the Calgary Stampede First Nation Princess.
“If you met me two weeks ago I would be a lot quieter than I am now,” she said.
Adding that this experience has given her the ability to participate in conversations rather than just sitting back and listening.
“I feel like I can take on life now, more confidently,” she adds.
Bad Eagle’s mother Rachel Bad Eagle has said that this experience was more than just winning the crown.
“It’s about meeting new people, getting out there and creating a positive environment for yourself,” Rachel said.
According to Rachel, their families from both the Bad Eagle and Yellow Horn sides have had a long history of being involved in the Calgary Stampede.
“When we were growing up, we were there from the beginning to the end,” She said.
“we would be sleeping in our vehicles, or sleeping in the tipi,” Rachel added.
She goes on to say she just wanted Jesse to be able to experience a part their families history, similar to the way she was able to as a child.
Despite Jesse not winning the title, Jesse has not let that ruin the relationships and the connections she gained.
The opportunity was more about meeting new people, and people Jesse feels she would have not met if she didn’t participate.
Especially the girls who were a part of the pageant along with Jesse.
“I’ve grown so close to them, they are amazing,” Jesse said.
“I feel really good about it, I’m just really glad I did this.”