Views / Opinion

Indigenous girl sitting out hockey season wise beyond her years: Kabatay

A seven-year-old Calgary girl who would rather not play than don a jersey featuring an Indigenous caricature understands right from wrong better than some adults, writes Jasmine Kabatay.

An Indigenous girl from Calgary is sitting out her hockey season rather than wear a jersey she feels in discriminatory.

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An Indigenous girl from Calgary is sitting out her hockey season rather than wear a jersey she feels in discriminatory.

When a child can understand the difference between what is right and what’s wrong better than a grown man can, it baffles me.

On Sunday, the Calgary Herald reported a seven-year-old Indigenous girl refused to wear a hockey jersey depicting a First Nations “warrior,” and has chosen to sit out the season rather than wear the shirt.

“The warrior is a revered figure in the First Nations heritage, so that’s the perspective we took in bringing our new name to the forefront,” Bryan Boechler, president of the Crowchild association, which oversees the team, told the Herald.

Boechler said it’s the first complaint they’ve received about the logo, and have no plans to change it but would consider it if more concerns arose.

A little girl understands that these logos can be hurtful and discriminatory towards herself and her own people, while a man who has seen the realities of the world and should have a good sense of right and wrong can’t.

This is a child who was looking forward to learning and starting something new, and she can’t do that because of a jersey she knows and understands is wrong. This child is already aware that something is off. She is wise beyond her years.

While most children would ignore the logo, she chose to let it be known that even though there may be some Indigenous Peoples okay with it, she wasn’t.

Perhaps even more perplexing was Boechler’s comment saying it “honours” First Nations people.

While apparently there were consultations with First Nations peoples about the logo when it was first created, that doesn’t mean every First Nations persons is okay with it, especially when there has been plenty of pushback at the use of these logos recently.

#NotYourMascot started in 2014 during the Super Bowl to draw attention to how Indigenous culture has been misappropriated. Last year, activist Douglas Cardinal launched a claim to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to bar the Cleveland Indians baseball team from using their name or logo at games played in Toronto.

As the movement gained steam, Justice Murray Sinclair, who headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said it was time to get rid of mascots offensive to Indigenous Peoples in an effort to help reconciliation.

So when a team defends a jersey’s logo as an “honour” to Indigenous Peoples but will let a child sit on the bench in part because she doesn’t want to wear that jersey, it confuses me who the real priority is in this case.

At the end of the day, a child is not playing a sport because adults can’t understand the difference between right and wrong. That is a real problem.

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