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2007 Hall of Fame Inductee
Tom Three Persons

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2007 Hall of Fame Inductee

Tom Three Persons

Tom Three Persons is perhaps best described as Alberta’s most famous cowboy was born in March 1888. Tom Three Persons was originally given the names Mutsi-i-kitstuki, or Handsome Offering, and baptized as Moses Three Persons but was known to all as Tom. Tom spent his youth on the Blood Reservation as a part of the Three Persons family. He spoke only Blackfoot and became, by all accounts, an outgoing, athletic and enigmatic young man. He also held many jobs during his youth, working as a mail carrier for the Indian Agency, as a scout for the Northwest Mounted Police and even as a cowboy on roundup crews for local ranchers. His mother Ayakohtseniki, Double Talker, a Blood woman, sent Tom to attend St. Joseph’s Indian Industrial School at Dunbow in 1903. Over the next three years he learned to speak English, became educated in the Catholic faith and married his first wife, Eliza Frank. After graduating from St. Joseph’s, Tom proved himself to be a hard worker, an excellent rider and an astute business man, however, it was his riding abilities that most amazed his friends, who, by 1908, had convinced him to enter the bronc-busting competition at the Lethbridge Fair. An impressive second place finish launched his new career. For the next few years, Tom juggled rodeo competitions with life on the round-up, winning first place at the 1909 contest in Lethbridge.

The first ever Calgary Stampede attracted competitors from all over North America and was held in August 1912 at Calgary. Three Persons was just one of many native bronc riders, calf ropers and steer riders from the Bloods, Stoney, Peigan, Sarcee and Siksika nations invited to take part in the first Calgary Stampede. Tom went to Calgary virtually unknown, known only to family and friends as a good bronc rider. He left the Stampede as the world’s bucking horse champion, beating out many experienced American professional cowboys and established a name that would live forever in rodeo history. Along with the standing ovation and adulation that lasted the remainder of his life, Tom Three Persons received $1,000.00, a medal, a hand-made trophy saddle, a championship belt and a gold and silver mounted buckle. After taming the great Cyclone to win the world saddle bronc championship at Calgary, Three Persons continued to compete in rodeo and won almost every rodeo he attended during his prime. Three Persons had been the only Canadian to achieve a championship in a major event at the Stampede and his victory made him an instant celebrity. Tom Three Persons inspired generations of Blood Indians to success in the rodeo arena.

He was making good money in rodeo and had invested wisely in cattle and made a profit at horse trading. Three Person’s home ranch, just below the St. Mary’s Dam spillway and a few kilometers west of Spring Coulee was ideal for the large cattle herds he raised. The corrals were the best quality, the house was large for its time and the barn was ideal. Part of his life he spent as a part of the Wild West Show in Winnipeg and Toronto. Three Persons was named to the Cardston Hall of Fame during the Cardston Centennial as an automatic inductee. He is also the first contestant inductee in the Canadian Cowboy Hall of Fame. His induction was held July 11, 1983.

Rodeo and ranching were dangerous occupations, though, and Three Persons was always being treated for broken arms, ribs and other assorted aches and pains. Despite the injuries, he was one of the most successful raisers of thoroughbred horses and purebred Herefords in southern Alberta. In 1946 Three Persons suffered a serious accident from which he never recovered, leading eventually to his death in 1949 at the age of 63. At the time of his death in 1949 his cattle holdings alone were worth $80,000.00. Hundreds of people attended his funeral at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Cardston, lying to rest one of rodeo's great legends.

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