Canadian Indian Cowboys in Australia: Representation, Rodeo, and the RCMP at the Royal Easter Show.


196 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55238-200-1
DDC 305.89707109'043




Reviewed by Trevor S. Raymond

Trevor S. Raymond is a teacher and librarian with the Peel Board of Education and editor of Canadian Holmes.


For an exotic crowd-pleaser at their century-old annual fair, the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales in 1939 asked the Canadian government for a “small group of Indians as a rodeo attraction,” and the Indian Affairs Branch (of the Department of Mines and Natural Resources) agreed to send eight First Nations rodeo professionals to Sydney, provided they lived on the grounds in teepees and sold handicrafts.


These wards of the state—they were not Canadian citizens—also had to be chaperoned so that they did not spend money without government permission, or worse, find an alcoholic drink, and so a young Mountie and his wife accompanied the mostly middle-aged men. The performers were accompanied on shopping trips and visits to restaurants, and were refused permission to attend the final banquet for the fair’s participants because alcohol would be served. The constable did, however, fight for them when they were cruelly cheated by their hosts.


There is a potentially lively human story here, but in this small volume by an award-winning scholar and doctoral candidate, the tale is secondary. “The ultimate purpose of this book,” she writes, “will be to elaborate on the events of this story in order to bring out the multiple and often contradictory meanings concerning human bodies, identities, and space that shift through the acts of travelling and performances.” Hence, we have discussions of imperial and colonial attitudes, the creation and alteration of racial stereotypes, something called the “Salvage Paradigm,” and the overbearing paternalism with which First Nations people of the day were treated. The endnotes, index, and extensive bibliography take up almost a quarter of the book’s pages. There are illustrations, but this is primarily a scholarly and occasionally ponderous examination of an all-but-forgotten bit of our history.


Mannik, Lynda., “Canadian Indian Cowboys in Australia: Representation, Rodeo, and the RCMP at the Royal Easter Show.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,