"Indian's Bygone Past:" The Banff Indian Days, 1902-1945

Laurie Meijer Drees

Abstract


Between 1902 and 1945, the Banff Indian Days and annual Indian Exhibition promoted by local Banff entrepreneur Norman Luxton, were a success both locally and internationally. Tourists came from around the world to attend the week-long festivities. The Banff Indian Days could be considered the Canadian equivalent of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. These Banff Indian Days form not only an undescribed part of Canada's popular culture history, but are also an important source of information on the nature of Indian-White relations in the province of Alberta between 1902 and 1945 - a period and region relatively little investigated by historians interested in Native history. In this paper the structure and function of the Banff Indian Days are investigated using traditional historical methods as well as theoretical concepts borrowed from the discipline of Anthropology. The article concludes that the Banff Indian Days constituted a form of public ritual through which participating Indians were able to invent, assert, and have sanctioned, their separate and unique identities.

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