A park bench meditation inspired by Chief Walking Buffalo

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 20, 2019

The late Stoney Nakoda Chief Walking Buffalo (inset, from Cochrane lamppost banner) inspires reflection on Nature’s wisdom as visitors stroll along paths through Cochrane’s Riverfront Park.
Photography by Warren Harbeck

Cochrane’s Riverfront Park is blessed with a beauty that Stoney Nakoda Chief Walking Buffalo would have regarded as a perfect classroom for “Nature’s University.”

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. What a great excuse to visit that classroom and see what wisdom the globetrotting goodwill ambassador from Morley might invite us to reflect on while strolling along the park’s scenic paths and relaxing on one of its friendly benches.

Walking Buffalo (George McLean, 1871–1967) was one of Mary Anna’s and my first mentors in the Stoney Nakoda way when we first arrived in the First Nation community in autumn 1965 as linguistic and Bible translation consultants. Over many wonderful meals together, he captivated us with stories of his worldwide travels with Moral Re-Armament (MRA, now known as Initiatives of Change).

In those critical years following World War II, he visited leaders in Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and of course, Canada and the United States, proclaiming a message of reconciliation and healing through apology and forgiveness.

His legacy of goodwill is memorialized in Cochrane by his image on lamppost banners around town. Because so much of his wisdom was informed by lessons learned in Nature’s University, it was also natural that our town honoured his memory at the opening of Riverfront Park in 2015.

Ah yes, Riverfront Park, along the north side of the Bow River by Highway 22.

What a peaceful place to stroll along its paths by wetlands and among the wolf willow, larch, ash, spruce, poplar and ponderosa pine, and then to pause and listen to their voices, as Walking Buffalo might have done.

Indeed, this was one of the first lessons I learned from him those many years ago – a lesson so in keeping with Stoney Nakoda teachings around wazin îchinabi  “oneness”; ahopabi “respect”; and oyade “peace, community, town” – values deeply rooted in the listening heart.

Thus, Walking Buffalo would often say: “Consider all the different kinds of trees there are in the forest. But they don’t fight with each other. They get along together just fine; they live in harmony.”

And then the healer of nations would add: “Why can’t we?”


© 2019 Warren Harbeck

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