Rodeo legend honored with lifetime achievement

The Dreamcatcher Foundation is honouring a Samson Cree man for his work in rodeo, various industries, and for his efforts

Carter Yellowbird will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award from the Dreamcatcher Foundation on Oct. 11.

Carter Yellowbird will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award from the Dreamcatcher Foundation on Oct. 11.

The Dreamcatcher Foundation is honouring a Samson Cree man for his work in rodeo, various industries, and for his efforts in helping First Nations communities.

Carter Yellowbird will receive the Lifetime Achievement award at the Dreamcatcher Foundation’s award night. The ceremony will take place in Hamilton, Ont. on Oct. 11.

“It’s probably the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Yellowbird said. “It’s a great honour for me to be acknowledged at such a prestigious event.”

Yellowbird’s final project for his master’s degree in business administration centres on retention strategies for the First Nations with regards to working in an industry.

“How can industry understand First Nations better? The work force is unique,” Yellowbird said.

“We need to create a conscience with First Nations.”

Yellowbird is using his consulting business to teach cultural sensitivity and protocol with First Nations to industry businesses.

He also wants to teach First Nations what industry is about, as well as how to deal with unemployment, constructive criticism and adaptation skills.

Into his early 20s Yellowbird only had a Grade 9 education. He graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Native Studies in 2003 and a master’s in June of this year.

“Education is the best insurance anybody can get,” Yellowbird said.

As a teenager Yellowbird left home and headed to California to rodeo.

“At 16 years old I saw a lot of my friends passing away. It really affected me emotionally. My MBA is an honour to all my friends that passed away at a young age.”

Yellowbird is believed to be the first Cree to compete in calf roping at the Calgary Stampede in 1991. He also competed again in 1992.

“Every time I rodeoed it was in the back of my mind that education is important.”

Yellowbird knew he loved to rodeo but that he couldn’t do it forever. For him it was a hobby. “I kind of flirted with school for a couple of years.”

Yellowbird encourages people to go to school and pursue an education no matter what.

“I’ve taken a lot of chances in my life. There’s nothing wrong with leaving the reserve,” Yellowbird said. “If you can’t look past the reserve your opportunities are limited. Those are strong words but I stand by them.”

Yellowbird is also in the first term of a three-year presidency of the Canadian Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association (CIRCA).

During his term Yellowbird wants to market opportunities in Western Canada for CIRCA and push it as far east as possible.

Yellowbird says cowboys spend huge amounts of money in rodeo and by upping cash prize amounts he wants to take some of the financial burden off them.

“It’s my way of giving back for what rodeo’s given me.”

Throughout his life Yellowbird also worked as a stunt man in movies such as Dreamcatcher and the Little House on the Prairie series.

From 1995 to 1997 Yellowbird lived in Paris and worked as a part of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. “The shock of moving away from home was one of the most challenging times of my life,” Yellowbird said.

He also managed to bring the Buffalo Bill auditions to Hobbema and has recruited over 50 people for the show.

However, Yellowbird is no longer affiliated with the show and spends more of his time working with chiefs of First Nations to present his retention strategy.

“First Nations want to work, if given the chance.”