Uncover the mystery behind the wild horses of Southern Alberta, Canada

In the News

Here are the latest news stories, press releases, announcements, backgrounders, and news videos about the Wild and Free/Suavage et Libre project.

Calgary Stampede, native elders and students team up to create Wild and Free – an online inquiry of wild horses

New website integrates tradition with technology

Wild Horses Focus of Project

Southern Alberta's Wild Horses Go Online

Government of Canada Supports Arts and Culture in Alberta

Horses trigger a life memory in students

The Wild and Free/Sauvage et Libre project was featured in the December, 2009 issue of Windspeaker magazine. A scan of the article can also be downloaded below:

With thundering hooves, majestic, strong bodies and tails whipping in the wind, it’s easy to see why Alberta’s wild horses would capture anyone’s imagination.

But for students living on the Stoney Nation, west of Calgary, it goes deeper than that – they’re discovering more about the spiritual significance of wild horses, while working to preserve and honour their habitat.

“There’s always that underlying spiritual connection between our people and the horse,” says Sykes Powderface, a Chiniki member of the Elders Traditional Knowledge Advisory Committee for the Stoney Nation.

“And when I say spiritual connection, I’m talking simply about understanding nature, understanding the natural senses we rely on. Horses help maintain the balance in the environment.”

Powderface is one of many members of the Stoney community working with students on Wild and Free – a project which will see artwork, stories, animations and drawings of wild horses posted on a website, to be launched in February, 2010.

The site will also feature rarely-seen video footage of some of the estimated 50 or-so wild horses in the Ghost Forest area, near the Stoney Nation’s Morley townsite.

Corleigh Belton, a Stoney Education Authority committee member, says her own experience earlier this year, when she saw a wild horse roaming in northwest Alberta, was a gift.

“He had a full mane, a full tail, and his muscular features were just unbelievable. It was a treat. I just stopped and said ‘wow, that is amazing.’ And spiritually, I said ‘thank you, grandfather, for giving me this special gift.’”

The experience was in Belton’s mind when she became involved in the Wild and Free project – she also feels the link between horses and the environment is an important one.

“In regards to the wild horse, I think this project is the first stepping stone to make the public aware that yes, we do have beautiful, majestic wild horses, and we need to take care of them. Because not only are they beautiful and majestic to look at, they’re also great planters and pollinators. Whatever plant they eat, they eat the seeds as well. And whatever burrs are stuck on their mane or tail, they transfer to the next plant, and that starts the whole process of ecology.”

Belton, who owns a 1,100-acre horse ranch on Scott Lake Hill, near Morley, says the students she’s spoken with have been very interested in the project.

“There’s lots of questions they’re asking – I told the children about spirituality, how we’re Mother Nature’s children and to respect horses, and the need for us to live side by side together. You have to respect the horse, because if you mistreat it, it’s not going to respect you.”

Also rewarding to see is the students – from Morley Community School and Chief Jacob Bearspaw School – having the chance to work with others from Senator Riley High School in High River, and Oilfields High School in Black Diamond on the project.

The students have also been able to ask questions of Stoney Elders and other members of the community, who are working with the Stoney Education Authority and a number of partners, which include the Galileo Educational Network, the Calgary Stampede School, and area ranchers, artists and conservationists. The project itself is funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Culture Online initiative.

Duane Mark, a cultural advisor at Morley Community School, agrees students were pleased to share their work recently with a wider audience, including Elders, students and teachers from other schools.

“They were tickled to share their voices – both in the drum songs they’ve done and in the computer animation pieces they have shared,” he says.

Mark believes the project will not only develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the wild horse, and for horses in general – but it will re-ignite a passion for the animals that has waned over the generations.

“Riding horses and connecting with horses has a true healing effect – maybe it’s a spiritual connection, or perhaps it triggers a life memory that they were part of the horse culture hundreds of years ago. It triggers a memory of a time when it was good. And this horse is much like a messenger, a spirit connecting them with their past and that’s why they truly love to ride the horse.

From a teaching point of view, this project is a great way for our students to achieve self-esteem, self confidence and identity in their culture.”

Keeping that identity strong goes hand-in hand with protection of the local wild horse population, says Sykes Powderface.

“Right now, we have coyotes in the cities, and cougars on the outskirts of town because they’ve all been driven out of their habitat in the west and out in the mountains because of the all-terrain vehicle activity. There’s so much activity out there, they are driven out, and it’s not their natural way. What they feed on is all disturbed too,” he says.

“This is what we’re trying to bring back for the wild horses, and protecting the wild horses. They’re very much a part of the environment….that is what we need to bring to the young people today, how critical the environment is.”

Shaw News Story

This TV report by Shaw TV’s Nicole Wachtler reports on the first meeting of artists, students, ranchers and First Nations elders around the Wild and Free project. The gathering took place at Stampede School on Nov. 9 2009.

Official Launch February 10th, 2010

The Official Launch of the web resource was a success according to students, teachers, school trustees, Member of Parliament Lee Richardson, and parents in attendance. Students presented some of their work which surprised the audience with it’s high quality. The Kelowna BC students and teachers participated by video conference and even sang the original song, “Wild & Free”. Daryl Kootenay and the student drummers from Morley Community School wowed the audience with their original scores.