Grande Prairie racetrack to host Indian relay racing events

​Kim Randall was blown away the first time she witnessed Indian relay racing live at the Calgary Stampede about a half-dozen years ago.

Randall, the general manager of Evergreen Park in the Alberta city of Grande Prairie, is now excited that the sport will be among the feature attractions at the Indigenous Celebration her facility will host next month.

“When you see it live, you have a real appreciation for their horsemanship,” Randall said of Indian relay racing teams. “It is really, really impressive.”

Evergreen Park’s two-day event, scheduled for June 8 and June 9, will also include First Nations drummers and dancers, as well as Indigenous food, arts and crafts.

The Indian relay racing will feature four or five teams per race. The sport features competitors each riding bareback for three laps on three separate horses. Each rider starts off on one horse and then makes exchanges to another horse and then another during each race.

Each team includes a catcher to contain a horse after it completes its lap, as well as a couple of holders who are waiting to assist participants onto another horse at the end of each lap.

“We do have horse racing here on site,” Randall said. “But we’ve never done anything like this before. It’s a perfect fit for our location.”

Evergreen Park features a track that is five-eighths of a mile in length.

Kimberly Big Crow, an organizer of the Indian relay racing events at Evergreen Park, said the sport means different things to different people.

“The competitors relish being able to celebrate our culture’s history through this sport,” Big Crow said. “It ties into cultural education and connects the younger generation to their Elders, which enhances skill-building and family values within our people.”

Big Crow said the sport has been around for a long time.

“Indian relay racing has been a proud tradition for over 300 years,” she said. “Our mandate is to provide exposure not only for our culture and heritage, but to showcase the horsemanship of Indian relay racing teams.”

A total of 20 teams, 13 from Alberta and seven from Saskatchewan, will participate in next month’s event.

Randall said three teams from the state of Montana were also interested in competing, but out-of-country insurance costs hindered the participation of the American clubs this year.

“We’ll figure it out for next year,” Randall said, adding she’s confident teams from the U.S. will take part in future Indian relay racing events at the park.

Randall is hoping Evergreen Park’s Indigenous Celebration will become an annual event.

“The Indigenous community is very important to us,” she said. “We want to partner with our local First Nations this year and for many years to build a showcase of Indigenous culture and heritage. The Indian relay races are truly a unique expression of the connection between Indigenous culture and the horse.”

Randall is also keen to see some large crowds take in this year’s festivities.

“We’re hoping to get around 3,000 people each day,” she said.

“I’m hoping that there will be a real mix of peoples with different backgrounds,” Randall said. Chiefs, council members and Elders from several First Nations and area Métis settlements have been invited to take part in a grand entry ceremony.

Tickets for the races cost $25 for adults and $15 for those 65 and over or between the ages of 11 and 17. Those under 10 are admitted free.

Tickets are available at

By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,,