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Tom Three Persons

Rodeo Pioneer- Inducted 2024

Tom Three Persons, from the Kainai Nation, was a respected Siksikaitsitapi rodeo athlete and rancher. He made a lasting impact on sports, especially rodeo and horse racing in southern Alberta in the early 1900s. His most notable achievement came in 1912 when he won in the saddle bronc competition at the first Calgary Stampede, considered a world champion event at the time due to the participation of top rodeo athletes. Back in 1912, when Three Persons won the saddle bronc competition, rodeo rules were different. They didn’t have set time limits like the eight-second or ten-second rule we have today. Instead, the ride kept going until either the horse or the cowboy decided to stop. This made the competition more difficult, but despite these challenges, Three Persons emerged as the champion, showing not only his amazing skill, but also his strong determination and grit.

As the sole Canadian to claim a championship at this historic rodeo, Three Persons solidified his status as a trailblazer in Indigenous athletics. His remarkable contributions were further recognized with inductions into prestigious halls of fame. In 1983, he earned a place in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame, honouring his extraordinary talents and accomplishments. Additionally, in 2007 he was inducted into the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Finally, Three Persons was honoured in 2016 with induction into the Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame as a distinguished rodeo athlete.

Beyond his successes in competition, Three Persons played a vital role as a builder in rodeo and horse racing communities. In July 1925, he organized and managed a stampede in Macleod, Alberta to celebrate “One Hundred Years of Indian Progress,” showcasing his dedication to promoting Indigenous culture through sport. Additionally, in 1937, he served as a judge at the Lethbridge Stampede, further contributing to the growth and development of rodeo in the region.

Three Persons’ enduring involvement in sports, despite facing discrimination against Indigenous peoples, exemplified his unwavering commitment to advancing the place of Indigenous communities in Alberta and beyond.