Rich heritage allows Buffalo to inspire
The Winter Olympics take on a heightened significance for Dartmouth senior goalie Devin Buffalo. While he has no participation record or close connection to the event, he is a well-traveled athlete.
He has taken his duffel bag through a variety of North American locations. And he once took his backpack through Europe, as he fondly recalled to this website in November of 2016.
More pointedly, back in his native Canada, he has volunteered with a cultural sports festival of another variety.
“I always felt a strong desire to give back to my community,” Buffalo, who has worked three levels of the World Indigenous Games, told Pucks and Recreation.
The World Indigenous Games, a multisport event bringing together indigenous athletes for friendly competition, started in Brazil in 2015 and continue every other year. The 2017 version took place in Edmonton last July, and Buffalo’s participation did not end there. He also traveled to Toronto to work for the North American Indigenous Games.
His involvement with the Games included numerous hands-on experiences, which had him tabbed as one of the 11 initial nominees for the 2018 Hockey Humanitarian Award.
“I handled event coordination, and even was an official for some events,” he said. “It was stressful at times, but rewarding as well.”
Buffalo, currently a resident of Wetaskiwin, Alta., spent the first six years of his life on Samson Cree Nation, Maskwacis. He embraced the challenges associated with his ethnicity, though doing so was not easy at times.
“Stereotypes definitely exist for native players,” he said. “You have to own it instead of defeating yourself. You have to accept it as a positive challenge.
“People may think that you are lazy or not respectful of authority, and that is something we have to go beyond in order to succeed.”
Growing up, Buffalo aspired to attend school in the United States, and took the Canadian Junior A route to get there. After initially playing for the Saskatchewan League’s Flin Flon Bombers, he was traded to Drumheller in Alberta. He improved upon his numbers in goal each year in Junior A.
“The biggest challenges indigenous youth face in pursuing hockey, beyond stereotypes, is that often there are other issues that they face. Food and financial considerations often play a role, and sometimes children do not have the family support to play hockey. The biggest thing I hope to do is encourage them to work hard to achieve their goals and dreams.” – Devin Buffalo
That success eventually led him to the Ivy League. As the Big Green starter this year, he has posted a .908 save percentage and a 2.78 GAA. He now sets a strong example of what can happen for others who seek to follow his footsteps. Now he encourages others back home to aspire for greatness on the ice and off.
In addition to the Indigenous Games, Buffalo also volunteers with First Nation youth hockey camps during the offseason. While there, he gained some eye-opening insights rooted in his own cultural background.
“The biggest challenges indigenous youth face in pursuing hockey, beyond stereotypes, is that often there are other issues that they face,” he explained.
“Food and financial considerations often play a role, and sometimes children do not have the family support to play hockey. The biggest thing I hope to do is encourage them to work hard to achieve their goals and dreams.”
Despite a rigorous hockey season, Buffalo explores ways to keep impacting his community through academics. He uses his government degree to explore significant issues in this regard.
One issue close to his heart is the alarming suicide rate among Canadian First Nations youth. Compared to other communities, Buffalo noted, it can be three or four times as likely and can affect anyone.
But with his own journey through the plains and the Ivy League, he knows how access to sports and other morale-building pastimes can help solve this crisis. He made such alternatives and their positive effect the subject of an independent study.
“Providing them an escape and an incentive to be proud of can go a long way,” he said. “I have worked with kids who often walk two miles or more to school and volunteering to be there to support them gives them a sense of urgency and purpose to their schoolwork.
“I love to help kids feel a sense of accomplishment and make them happy because I feel happy as well.”