Tarrant Cross Child recalls his first running experiences as a child growing up in southern Alberta
As a youngster, I sure loved my summers. Summers meant I could go to my Grandpa Daniel Weasel Moccasin’s, down in southern Alberta’s Treaty Seven area.
I don’t suppose he would have called it the Treaty Seven area; he just called it home. He pointed to the sun, the grass and the river. My Grandpa did not speak a word of English. He grew up in his traditional ways, which he just called living.
And boy, did we live, in those summers! Swimming in the Belly River, where it meets the Old Man River. We knew the swimming holes. We knew to swim and drink from upstream, because I’m pretty sure we all peed, so we didn’t want to drink downstream.
I loved to run up and down the Belly Buttes. My Grandpa would get me to find the horses and round them up. He would speak in the Blackfoot language, and I knew what he meant. I’d run to the top of the hill, look to my left, to my right, in front of me. Can’t see them yet, I’d think, so I’d run down and up another valley, another butte, and – oh, there they are. There must have been about 30 of them, but to a young boy, it looked like 100. I wasn’t even 10 years old. They all stayed together, and I would chase them down into the valley. I could see the corral in the distance, and the horses headed through the gates. I felt so much pride and joy that I helped the horses get there.
But man, I loved to run. My Grandpa Daniel gave me my traditional name, Itsiniitohpii, which means a messenger, carrying a message and running from camp to camp. He felt that maybe I should run a race. There was a local track meet on the Rez. He took me to Lethbridge, because I didn’t own a pair of good running shoes. We went to a place called Poiinaapsii, which is Blackfoot for bothersome, where they bother you so much that, even if you go in there not wanting to buy something, you leave buying a whole lot. I found these amazing, fast blue shoes. My favourite colour was blue, and my Grandpa bought me the fast blue shoes.
Grandpa took me to the track, where I sat, waiting for my age category. They called the 10 and under, but I was too shy to go. Then they called the 12 and under, then the 14 and under, and the 16 and under. But I was still too shy to go. I really wanted to run, watching all the kids leaving it all out there on the track, but I didn’t have the courage to go to the start line. I hung my head. As I did so, I saw my brand-new, fast blue shoes. That gave me the inspiration to get up and walk to the start line, with the older kids. The gun went off, and I was running, pumping my arms, moving my little legs as fast as they would go. I came in last. I was tired, but I felt pretty good, because I knew I gave it everything I had.
Being back out there in Old Agency on the Blood Reserve, number 148, running through the buttes, I’ll always remember that track meet, and I will always remember those fast blue shoes. And I’ll always be a proud Niitsitapi from Kainai Blood tribe, a member tribe of the Blackfoot Confederacy. For as long as the sun rises, the grass grows and the river flows.
K’iahn (Blackfoot for “end of story”).
Tarrant Cross Child is Niitsitapi from Kainai in southern Alberta and now lives in Saskatoon. He won the Saskatchewan Marathon in 1998. In 2016, he founded what is now Prairie Run Crew as a way to share his passion for running with inner-city youth and remote communities.