About a year ago a close friend of mine started up Bedford Road “Redmen”, It’s Time for a Change on facebook (please check it out, and like it if you haven’t already).The page immediately stirred up a lot of controversy, and attacks from the “other side” began. In Saskatchewan, if you ever want to see, hear, read some of the most racist things ever simply use one of these terms: Aboriginal, First Nations, Metis, Native, or Indian. Whether it be in the comments section of a newspaper article, a video about Residential schools, or our page to change a team's name and mascot hate speech will ensue.
The funny thing (well not funny at all actually) is the difference in attacks my friend and I received. She being a visibly First Nations woman, and me being a non-visible Metis man. The attacks she experienced were viscous, and at times scary. The ones I received were little more than “you used to be cool” or something along those lines. For me this reveals the obvious inequality between both women and men, and between Indigenous peoples and non.
This past year we have been actively rallying for support by speaking at a variety of events on the issue. We have met with the Principal at Bedford Road Collegiate, and were ignored. The Saskatoon Public School board was graced with the presence of an Anti-racist scholar from the University of Saskatchewan who spoke to the problems with the name and mascot, but still no change.
All that being said we are at a standstill … the school and school board appear to be just waiting for us to go away, while we insist on not going away. Ian from A Tribe Called Red has been working on addressing the Nepean Redskins name in Ottawa, and has been a vocal supporter of our campaign as well. We are developing some more creative ways to bring attention to the issue and hopefully will see some movement.
It is time for these types of names and mascots to be a thing of the past. They originated when the dominate society thought our people were going to disappear, and may have in a twisted way been some sort of honouring. Today they are nothing more than racist imagery that reduces our people and cultures to caricatures, and contributes further to the oppression and marginalization of our people. Research throughout North America has shown the problems with these types of names and mascots, and many schools have changed their names.
Even today people do not understand what has happened to Indigenous peoples in Canada. People do not truly understand the acts of genocide that have taken place here. People do not understand the treaties, and what they truly mean. Indigenous people continue to be at the bottom of social and economic hierarchy. Change needs to occur. People do not realize that these images represent something so much more than a warrior, or a team. To me, they represent genocide, racism, and broken promises.
Educational institutions need to be welcoming, inclusive places. Where youth have the opportunity to learn, and grow as human beings. A place where they learn what is right and what is wrong. A place where they feel safe, and a place where they are encouraged to think critically and challenge the status quo. With names and mascots like Bedford's, schools will never fully reach their potential.
I'd encourage all of you to go to www.facebook.com/changeredmen and support the change. I would also encourage all of you to send an email to you're elected School Board Trustee or specifically the one for Ward 2 (the ward in which Bedford Road Collegiate is located).