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Naming ceremony for police chief draws fire

Paul Melting Tallow, Sweetgrass Writer, Calgary

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Calgary's top cop was honored with the Blackfoot name "Blue Bird" by Pikuni Nation Elder Joe Crowshoe at a naming ceremony held at the Calgary Stampede's Indian Village on July 11.

Crowshoe had promised a traditional name to Chief-of-Police Christine Silverberg when he transferred ownership of the Calgary City Police tipi to her at last year's Calgary Police Service Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Camp on the Pikuni Nation.

"Joe Crowshoe transferred the Calgary City Police Tipi twice before, and the last time he transferred it to a new owner it was Chief Silverberg," said Reg Crowshoe, Joe's son and naming ceremony organizer.

"He found out at that time when he was saying his prayers that she didn't have a name. At that time he asked her to come to the Stampede to the big council tipi and he would give her a name."

Silverberg that the honor she received from Crowshoe adds to "the deep commitment and abiding commitment I have to furthering a community which truly values the diversity of its community. It is a great honor for this to have occurred today."

Reg Crowshoe said his father's wish is for his people to understand white people and vice-versa.

"I think it's with that in his heart that he uses his ceremonies to try and bridge gaps the best he can," said the younger Crowshoe.

Not everyone was in support of the naming ceremony for the police chief, however. One Siksika Nation Elder who didn't want his name used said the ceremony was not held correctly.

He said Crowshoe simply told Silverberg her new name and pushed her forward to symbolized her going ahead in life with her new name.

That's not traditional, said the upset Elder. He said that the person giving the name should take the person receiving the name around the village and announce the new name to everyone.

But it wasn't just the protocol which upset the Elder. He said Silverberg and the Calgary police do not deserve the honors bestowed upon them by Crowshoe. He pulled no punches in explaining his reasoning.

"They treat us like dogs."

Roy Littlechief, Siksika member and co-founder of the Committee Against

Injustices to Natives, agreed with the Elder that attitudes by the police towards Natives do not warrant the honors that Silverberg received.

He said that though Joe Crowshoe is a respected Elder, he lives on the reserve and doesn't see what happens in the larger metropolitan areas.

"There's too much prostitution of our culture. People are getting beat up in the city," Littlechief said. "I don't think she deserved it. It's wrong, totally wrong."

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