A young Indigenous man has been presented with an impressive accolade from the Calgary Stampede.
Austin Standing Alone, a 21-year-old from the Kainai Nation (Blood Reserve), is the recipient of the Anthony (Tony) Breaker Young Wrangler Award. It’s the second consecutive win of the award for Standing Alone.
The award is presented to a youth volunteer, age 25 or younger, who demonstrates leadership, commitment, resourcefulness and initiative during the 10 days of the Calgary Stampede.
This year’s Stampede ran from July 5 to July 14. Standing Alone was presented with his award on Sunday, the last day.
“When I first won this award last year I didn’t know anything about it,” Standing Alone said.
The annual award honours Tony Breaker, who passed away suddenly at the age of 38 in July 2013. Breaker had been a valuable member of the Calgary Stampede First Nations Events Committee Wranglers.
“The people who run the barns vote on this,” Standing Alone said of his award. “It’s for somebody who’s going the little extra mile.”
During this year’s Calgary Stampede, Standing Alone was also one of the horse riders in the daily grand entry parade. He would wear his Indigenous regalia during the ride.
His responsibilities also included daily interactions with Stampede officials, as well as sponsors.
Standing Alone welcomed these opportunities. He admits similar circumstances would have been a challenge for him a few years ago.
“I was definitely shy before,” he said. “It was hard for me to talk to people before. I can talk to people now, but I want to do better.”
Standing Alone is not quite sure which direction he is headed, but he seems on a promising path.
“I don’t know what I want to do with my life,” he said. “But this really makes me feel good though.”
The recipient of the Young Wrangler Award also had to have made significant contributions to the maintenance and upkeep of the barn facilities and the comfort, health and care of the horses.
He had to conduct himself in an exemplary manner during their daily parades.
Standing Alone said he was able to have plenty of discussions with many of the participants of the various competitions at the Stampede.
“They were really nice, especially once they realized you were there every day like they were,” he said of the competitors.
Standing Alone said a significant moment in his life occurred in 2017 when he took an eight-month horse training course in Stand Off, Alta.
“It really opened my eyes as to how to take care of horses and how the horse’s mind works as well,” he said. “It was a lot more than what I expected.
“I felt it’s important to have the safety of the horse and the person.”
Before beginning his horse training course, Standing Alone was interested in enrolling in a two-year Native transition program at Lethbridge University where he could focus on business management courses.
But he was already two months into his horse training course when word finally arrived that he had been accepted into that program, so he decided to stick with his horse training course instead.
“I felt it was my responsibility to finish the course,” he said. “I felt I had obligations to fulfill.”
Upon completing that program, Standing Alone has been a vital member of his family’s farming business. His family currently owns 80 cows and six horses.
“I want my family business to thrive,” he said.
And, Standing Alone will be returning to school this September.
He’ll be taking business classes at Lethbridge College. He’s hoping his business acumen will translate into some success not only for his family’s farming but for others as well.
“That’s what I want to do for the community and those around it,” he said.
Just make sure, however, not to refer to Standing Alone as a cowboy.
“It’s funny when people look at me and call me a cowboy,” he said. “I’m not a cowboy. I’m a rancher. I train horses and push cows.”