Check here for a deeper history of the Buffalo Runners:
By Will Colford, SnowSeekers Inc.
“We didn’t know until four o’clock last night, and then we got the call from the Olympic committee. We are very proud of our grandson,” said Liander Strikes With A Gun, grandfather of today’s torchbearer, Mike. In addition to being selected for the torch relay, Mike was selected or “captured” for another prestigious and historical society: the Buffalo Runners.
Ken Williams, who reinstituted the society, told me that before the introduction of the horse and rifle, Native bands would use sites like Head Smashed In to great affect. The Society of Buffalo Runners was a separate group within each tribe. It was their mandate to identify runners at a young age and “capture” them into the society. A very spiritual affair, these elite runners would be trained and instituted to herd the buffalo to these site. The Runners were prided for their speed, legendary endurance, and skill.
The real work of the Runners began after locating the herd. “There would be a few runners in the front and a few behind the herd. It was the rear runners’ job to haze the buffalo. They’d wear coyote skins and act as predators pushing the herd forward. The runners in the front would dress as buffalo calves and goad the matriarchal sows ahead by calling out to them,” explained Williams. This way the runners in the front would pull the herd along.
The runners would move the herd in this manner all the way to a large gathering basin just behind the cliff. Once there, an appropriate time would be selected based on many factors. “Sunrise is always a good time for both spiritual and practical reasons.” After inciting a stampede, the rear runners would haze the buffalo ever forward. The community would be on hand to haze any splintering buffalo back on course. The forward runners, however, were in danger of being trampled. Through their training, however, they would have previously scouted spots – such as boulders or crevasses – in which to quickly duck into. The noise of a herd of stampeding buffalo, thundering overhead and all around must have been terrifying.
This is the society that Mike Strikes With A Gun, today’s torchbearer, is apart of. The society is very prominent today thanks to the efforts of people like Williams. A runners’ rally is held every few years that carries the community’s own ‘torch’ across hundreds of kilometers of prairie. Like the Olympic torch relay, “It’s not competitive. It’s not for points or high scores. It’s to unite the community, by bringing people together within one of our oldest traditions.”
Make sure to catch the Travel Alberta Olympic Torch Relay videos on YouTube at