Indigenous advocates say Quebec teams need to ditch their Indigenous-derived names and logos
MONTREAL -- The Washington NFL team made headlines this week after announcing they would drop their ‘Redskins’ name and logo, a move Indigenous advocates have been calling on the team to make for years. The Edmonton Eskimos are likely to follow suit, according to an insider report.
But what about Quebec, where several teams continue to use names and titles referencing First Nations and Inuit culture?
The Granby Inouk, a AAA Junior Hockey League team from Cégep de Granby, uses a cartoon of an Inuit holding an ice-covered hockey stick. “Inuk” is a French translation for Inuit, the first peoples of Inuit Nunangat, which includes northern Canada.
The Vallyfield Braves, also in the AAA Junior League, use a man with a mohawk and face paint as their logo.
The Sorel-Tracy Hawks of the North American Hockey League has a man in profile with red and white face paint and feathers in his hair, similar to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Finally, The Shawinigan Cataractes, in the Major Junior League, uses a man with face paint and a headdress as their logo.
“Its not okay that they’re using us as mascots,” says Trey Deere, a young athlete in Kahnawake, the Mohawk community south of Montreal.
He says anti-Indigenous racism is very real in sports, and that he’s been a victim of it on the lacrosse court during a recent game in the United States. “One of the defendants that was guarding me, he said ‘I’m going to pull your braid off.’” Said Deere. “Just hearing that, I got really mad.”
The Shawinigan Cataractes adopted their logo in 2015 in ad campaign with the slogan “my history, my colours.”
The Cataractes provided CTV with a statement, saying their “logo was created with respect,” and that they have approval from Indigenous communities. “Our logo represents the courageous side of Indigenous peoples,” it read.
In an open letter, the nearby Atikamekw Nation called the look “folklore,” but that they believed the intentions were good.
Researcher Melissa-Magdelena Nieuwenhof says the use of Indigenous-derived symbolism in logos and team names can be divisive, and especially damaging for young athletes.
“As of 4 years old, when we introduce these kids to hockey, we create a sense of belonging with their logo,” she said. “I don’t think we want to create a sense of belonging amongst one group that ostracizes another.”
Kahnawake Hockey Board Member Lou Ann Stacey says systemic racism is a big problem in junior sports. “We have a tremendous amount of natural athletes,” she said. “Our kids get to a certain level and then it stops.”
“A lot of people have turned around and said it’s because the opportunities aren’t there. That it’s because of racism.”