The grizzly bear had better sense
BANFF, Alberta––Convicted on September 13, 2019 of disturbing a grizzly bear more than four years earlier, professional chuckwagon racing driver Devin Mitsuing, 35, was on September 13, 2019 fined $4,000 by Canmore Provincial Court Judge George Gaschler.
Mitsuing was given until October 16, 2019 to pay the fine or serve 33 days in jail.
Devin Mitsuing calls himself “Crazyhorse” on Instagram, after the Lakota war chief Crazy Horse (1840-1877).
Custer’s Last Stand
The war chief Crazy Horse on the days of June 25–26, 1876 led the Lakota victory over the U.S. Seventh Cavalry in the 1876 battle remembered as Custer’s Last Stand.
Major General George Armstrong Custer and five of the 12 companies of the Seventh Cavalry were massacred three weeks after Chief Sitting Bull, the spiritual leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota, reportedly had a vision of “soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky” during a Sun Dance ceremony on June 5, 1876, at Rosebud Creek, Montana.
On June 5, 2015, 139 years later and 688 miles to the northwest, Mitsuing may have had somewhat blurry vision.
British Columbia photographer Thomas Murray O’Neill testified that he and another witness had been photographing the grizzly bear involved for about an hour from the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park, near Peyto Lake, also known as Lake Louise, when a red truck pickup with a Saskatchewan license plate arrived.
“We were on the other side of the highway when a truck pulled up and two gentlemen got out. They started yelling at the bear and throwing rocks. Then [Mitsuing] took off his shirt and got in a boxing stance,” O’Neill told the court.
Summarized Rocky Mountain Outlook writer Jenna Dulewich, “The photographer watched Mitsuing, shirtless, yell and taunt the young grizzly for approximately five to 10 minutes before the man started running toward the bear,” who ran back into the woods.
“I was trying to go golfing.”
O’Neill called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
“After finding Mitsuing and his friends at Radium Hot Springs, too intoxicated to drive,” Dulewich continued, “the RCMP impounded the vehicle and dropped the group off at a local hotel.”
Interviewed by the RCMP the next morning, “Mitsuing asked where he was and when told he was in British Columbia, he swore,” Dulewich wrote. “The warden asked where he was going and Mitsuing replied, ‘I don’t know. I was trying to go golfing.’”
Bizarre behavior by Mitsuing continued over the next several years. Mitsuing reportedly missed two court dates, finally arriving at the Canmore Provincial Courthouse “before the doors officially opened” on September 13, 2019, only to leave “to run errands and grab some food, resulting in his absence from the morning trial,” Dulewich said.
Risked the bear’s life, too
Assessed Federal Crown prosecutor Jeremy Newton, “When an individual creates this kind of dangerous situation with a bear, when they charge at him, when they throw rocks at him, when they cause him to run into the bush, you are going to create an aggressive animal who obviously has the ability to do a lot of harm to humans and the public in general. Mr. Mitsuing wasn’t just putting himself in danger, he put every other person who comes across this bear in danger in the future.”
Mitsuing also jeopardized the bear, who would most likely be killed if he ever harms a human.
Neither Dulewich nor other media coverage of the Mitsuing case, meanwhile, made mention of who he is.
His father, Ray Mitsuing, 65, “is former chief of Loon Lake First Nation in northwestern Saskatchewan,” wrote Kristen Anderson of Postmedia earlier in 2019, when Ray Mitsuing reached the mandatory retirement age for Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association drivers, after 36 years of competition, during which he won a record seven national championships.
“Currently, he serves as a senator on the board of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan,” Anderson continued.
“For the past 43 years,” Anderson said, Ray Mitsuing “has driven a school bus and acted as a mentor to First Nations youth, teaching them how to respect and care for animals.”
Obviously the Ray Mitsuing version of “how to respect and care for animals” excludes keeping them out of events like the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races, which have killed 73 horses since 1986, among 97 total animals killed at the Stampede.
Devin Mitsuing, one of four brothers, and one of two to follow their father into chuckwagon racing, debuted in competition in 2004.
Devin Mitsuing in 2010 won the Orville Strandquist award for best cumulative time by a rookie driver at the Calgary Stampede. A year later Devin Mitsuing won the 2011 Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association Championship.
“He nearly won the following year as well, but lost by half a horse length to eventual winner Vern Nolin,” recounted Derek Cornet of the First Nations web magazine Northern Pride.
Kicked in the face
But in 2014, Cornet continued, “Mitsuing was kicked in the face by a horse at Onion Lake. He was putting the horse to bed when it suddenly kicked without warning. Mitsuing said he never saw the blow coming, but it resulted in the surgical implantation of 19 plates and 60 screws.
“I got kicked in the face by a horse the weekend before the Calgary Stampede started,” elaborated Devin Mitsuing to Laurence Heinen of the Calgary Herald. “It shattered my cheek bone, my orbital bone and my nose and my upper jaw — pretty much everything.”
Which leaves essentially unexplained why, just a year later, Devin Mitsuing put all that pain and suffering, his hopes of making a chuckwagon racing comeback, even his life and a grizzly bear’s life, at risk trying to pick a fight with a bear that the bear, especially, did not want.
Who, exactly, was Devin Mitsuing seeking to impress?