Sparkling Nehiyawskwew ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ
My name is Sarah Buffalo and I am a Nehiyawskwew ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ from Montana First Nation in Maskwacis Alberta. My lineage is comprised of Cree, Irish and English decent. Cree culture has a huge influence in my life as I grew up in a single-parent household and spent a majority of my time with my mother Chrystal, in Edmonton and my mosombun Marvin in Maskwacis learning traditional Cree teachings and ceremony.
In contrast to the life-affirming teachings of Cree culture I also observed the destructive reverberations of colonialism and residential schools, bearing witness to the trauma family and community suffered as they would act out in seemingly unusual ways. With my mother’s education in social work she was able to demystify the patterns and effects of colonial legacy, which made me continuously aware of the systemic roots of colonialism and social ills from a young age.
These alternative teachings always seemed to run in the face of the public school curriculum as there wasn’t any admittance of residential school, forced sterilizations or clearing of the plains in the 90’s never mind any other conversation of contemporary Indigenous issues. These stories in the communities were never brought to light so I wanted to investigate why, I wanted to legitimize our communities and illuminate these invisible systems much like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015, or the 2019 Final Report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. But these reports had not yet come into being when I first entered Post Secondary at the age of 17, in fact I have always been interested in other cultures, and with some inspiration from my mother’s love of Indiana Jones I decided to be an Anthropologist. It was a way to study how other cultures organized themselves and to see what worked for ancient civilizations and why. Originally I had hoped to bring an Indigenous voice into Classical History and Anthropology to link our ancestry, knowledge and organization of bands into the western consciousness as operating at the same tier as the rest of the world civilizations. My perspective has since shifted into focusing on human’s interaction with the land and to study cultures that are more integrated with shorter feedback loops versus globalization which gives humans a more abstract relationship with the land instead of seeing that we are a part of it.
THE SPARKLING BUFFALO
Another significant part of my identity is my art. Borne out of poverty, creativity became a way to shift the focus from a lack perspective to one of possibility and empowerment. As a child art has been a way of dealing with being a chubby, nerdy indigenous girl passionate about human rights and art was a way of creating my voice. Along with the beadwork teachings from Chrystal’s background in Pow Wow we eventually evolved the beadwork, art and design into our business The Sparkling Buffalo. The Sparkling Buffalo is a small business created by my mother and I where we combine traditional Cree beadwork with semi-precious stones. Our influences come from science fiction, pow wow, art history and contemporary fashion. What started off as a small table in the hallway of Montana First Nation’s foyer in 2007 blossomed into a burgeoning small business where The Sparkling Buffalo has attended in Edmonton alone: Heritage Days, Ben Calf Robe Pow Wow, The Heart of the City Festival, as well as a number of other markets across Alberta. In Calgary The Sparkling Buffalo has partaken in The Authentically Indigenous Craft Show, the Mount Royal University Pow Wow and Bow Valley College’s Indigenous Day Showcase in Prince's Island Park. In 2016 I was nominated for the Aboriginal Women in Business Award, and in 2014 the jewellery designed by Chrystal and I appeared on the hit show Blackstone throughout season 4 where it subsequently got picked up by Netflix two years later. From this big break we were discovered by CBC where Gareth Hampshire did an interview on the business which was broadcast nationally and boosted our signal for a bit. The Sparkling Buffalo certainly has come a long way, and we hope to take it further in the years to come.
Some of my personal influence also comes from my adopted kokombun Linda Bull, she was a scholar at the University of Alberta and she received the honour of Canada for her advocacy and research in 2002. She was a peace activist, she worked with David Suzuki and “she has made presentations at more than 40 international peace, education and human rights conferences.” (1) I met her at pivotal time in my life, and she has since been a guiding light for me, expanding my consciousness on what indigenous communities could be. She was always passionate about bringing awareness to human rights issues and seeing that our cultures, environments and wellness are interconnected in so many ways with so many layers like nature itself.
Permaculture came into my life through the love of plants, gardens and the introduction of Earthships. I was personally researching the idea of living off grid and I found Earthships were an elegant way of organizing a living space where water is harvested from precipitation and grey water is utilized at least once over. As well as being a fully sustainable home off grid, Earthships use a foundation made from recycled tires and they also integrate a greenhouse into the main structure to create food security. I furthered my research into Permaculture to study these systems separately to allow myself more flexibility in design so that I can tailor them to the needs of reserve communities. In 2016 I took a Permaculture Design Course with Verge Permaculture in Invermere B.C. A large portion of this course was centered around the off-grid Groundswell Community Greenhouse in Invermere which is surrounded by a food forest and a natural pond where they use it as a teaching tool for science students, culinary students and community members interested in homesteading on their home property. My 5 year goal includes Indigenizing the Permaculture Design Course and creating food forests and greenhouses so that I can create spaces to teach, learn, network and grow food in Maskwacis, fostering community, wellness, food sovereignty, medicine and reconnecting our relationship with the land.
The Governor General of Canada: Ms.Linda R.Bull, C.M. 2002 https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/146-7660?fbclid=IwAR2MCNQCZbPCF_jIUu9DH8dw9b4stS-shBQvUl1N8l7JI_oo0tFK-WdueBg