This gives me goose bumps! When I began writing my first book, The Larks Don’t Sing in the Valley, I had to come up with names for my characters. One of my main characters is a 14-year-old Blackfoot boy. Right out of the blue, I gave this boy the name, Badger.
I was several chapters into the book, writing about Badger and Andy, when, unrelated to my writing, I met a fellow by the name of Pat Provost, from the Piikani Nation (Blackfoot). Pat was running an organization called the Horse Spirit Youth Society, a youth horseback riding club on the Piikani Nation, near Pincher Creek, Alberta. I was the organizer of Pincher Creek’s annual parade and wanted to invite his group of young riders to ride in it. He had me come down to the arena one night, where the kids were riding, so we could talk about it. While I waited to speak with him, I watched the young riders. Some were tiny, sitting on the front of their parent’s saddle; others were older, all the way up to teens, boys and girls. One young man stood out from the others. He looked about 14, rode well, good-looking, and had long, black braids. That’s Badger, I said to myself. I had never seen him before and did not meet him that night. But afterward, whenever I wrote about Badger in my book, I pictured that kid.
Fast forward a few weeks. I was in my office with Pat to finalize plans for his kids to ride in the parade. As we visited, I mentioned my book, and I told him about the kid I had seen at the arena. I told him that was who I imagined as I wrote about my character, Badger. Pat recognized who I was speaking about and got a wry grin on his face.
“That’s my son, Ty!” he said to me.
“That’s cool!” I responded.
“You know what his Indian name is?” Pat asked.
I answered, “No.”
“His Indian name is Míísinsski. It means Badger.”
Whoa! No way! Yup, Badger! After that, I had to meet him! I actually met Ty Provost out on the set of the Steven Spielberg mini-series Into the West, a couple of months later. Ty appeared in a few roles in that 6-part series. While on set, I got to see him jump off a cliff in the buffalo jump scene in Part 1. He is now a success coach at the local high school, takes the occasional movie role, and is working with his dad doing great things with Native kids in a group called Horse Spirit Therapeutic Horsemanship.
This is Ty, on the set of Into the West, with a buffalo that was a character in the series.