On October 18, 1929, Alberta’s Famous Five (Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, and Henrietta Edwards) succeeded in having Canadian women defined as “persons” under law. To celebrate this, and coinciding with Women’s History Month each October, women from our own community are inducted into the Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum’s Women of Aspenland exhibit. Now in its 19th year, and consisting of 85 “persons”, this project showcases the lives of local women who embody the heart of Wetaskiwin city, county and Maskwacis. Heritage Museum on Saturday, October 17 celebrated the induction of Lou Klone, Dorothy French, and Florence Buffalo.
Florence Buffalo was a kind, generous and loving individual. Her many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, both biological and adopted, can attest to this. She dedicated her life to bettering the community and always tried her hardest to put a smile on everyone’s face. Florence passed away on November 29, 2014, and to respect the traditions of Cree culture and the family and friends of Florence still undergoing the grieving process, we will not be displaying any photographs of Florence until after a full year of mourning has passed. We will however, share her story with you so that you may know what a remarkable person she was, and the legacy that she has left behind.
Florence was born in Kehewin Cree Nation on September 20, 1938. Her parents were William and Sarah and she had nine siblings. Together as a family, they lived off the land growing what foods they could and hunting the rest. When Florence was eight years old, she was sent to Blue Quills Indian Residential School where she stayed until completing Grade 8. Afterwards, she was sent to Olds to take agriculture training. This is where she met Frank Buffalo—her future husband.
Florence and Frank were married on November 20, 1956 and had 10 children. They lived in Kehewin until Frank got a job at a sawmill. The entire family moved out to the camp where he was working and just like in Kehewin, they lived off the land. Florence and Frank moved to Maskwacis in 1966 shortly after sending their children to Samson to attend school.
While living in Samson, Florence became involved in band politics. She served on band council for 33 years and in 1997 was elected as the first female chief in Samson. She faced protest as there were some band members who believed that the role of chief should only be held by a man, however Florence did not give up. She remained chief for one term and forgave those who protested against her.
Florence loved to make people laugh. She would tell humorous stories about her childhood, like the time she sat yodelling with a lard bucket stuck on her head. She always ended her speeches with a joke and used humour to diffuse any tense situation. She joked with everyone; it did not matter if it was the bingo caller or a politician such as Ralph Klein. She had a huge heart which was constantly demonstrated in her every day actions. She would buy groceries for the families who needed them and she would always keep her freezer stocked with meat and bread. She adopted many people as her own and was called mom and Kohkom [Grandma] by them all. She’s been referred to as Mother Theresa because of what she has done for others and the way that she carried herself. She was very spiritual and would always remember to give thanks to the Creator and would pray morning, afternoon and night.
Florence has touched the lives of so many individuals and families and she is greatly missed. She has made such a positive impact in the community and her legacy will continue to live on through those she loved.