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Ojibwe Musician “Looking For Trouble”

Deejay NDN requests Ottawa sports club to drop racist name

by Crystel Hajjar

Deejay NDN at Electric Pow Wow at Babylon Nightclub Aug. 22 2011. Photo taken by Pat Bolduc
Deejay NDN at Electric Pow Wow at Babylon Nightclub Aug. 22 2011. Photo taken by Pat Bolduc

 

Ottawa-based Ojibwe musician Ian Campeau is pressuring the Nepean Redskins, an amateur football club based in Nepean, Ontario, to change its name, based on the racist origins and offensive nature of the term “Redskins.”
 
“In every single dictionary definition,” said Campeau, “[Redskins] is defined as offensive, so it is inappropriate to name a youth football team a word that by dictionary definition is offensive.” 
 
According to the Oxford Dictionary, “redskin” is defined as “dated or offensive: an American Indian.” While the historical origins of the term are widely disputed, it’s ongoing application is a racial slur used to devalue Indigenous people. 
 
“Having an institution like this called the Nepean Redskins, to me, is socially acceptable mainstream racial oppression, there is no other race that is used like this,” said Campeau. “It is absolutely describing a race and it is using a very derogatory term for it.”
 
The club, previously known as the Barrhaven Buccaneers, changed its name to Nepean Redskins in 1981. Campeau, a performer with the group A Tribe Called Red and also known as DeeJay NDN, learned about the club’s existence last year, and has since been campaigning to raise awareness on this issue. 
 
Campeau maintains that the problem is with the team name and not with playing football. 
 
“Just because it is 30 years old doesn’t mean it is appropriate,” he said. “We don’t want the kids to stop playing football. We just don’t want them to play under a racist moniker.” 
 
Despite Campeau’s efforts to publicly address the issue through social and traditional media, and despite his attempts to contact politicians and the club’s administration, he has yet to receive any direct response from the club’s representatives. 
 
However, in an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network’s Jorge Barrera, Team President Steve Dean indicated that the organization is going to discuss the name change with parents. He added that such changes could cost the team, mostly run by volunteers, up to $125,000. 
 
“I still haven’t had a response from anyone on the team to be honest,” said Campeau. “And that [Barrera’s interview] was the very first time that any media person got a hold of Steve Dean.”  
 
In an email response that Campeau posted on Facebook, Nepean City Councillor Jan Harder wrote, “The Nepean Redskin football name is some 40 years old or more, and in the entire time I have been in Nepean until the last year or so, there has never been any talk of name change.”
 
“You are looking for trouble where none exists,” she wrote.
 
Campeau’s supporters disagree with this response, and his cause has received some endorsement from the public. A Facebook group he started reached over 1,100 members. 
 
“The response has been tremendous. It is just fantastic. And all the people that aren’t supportive of the name change, all it will take is a five minute discussion,” said Campeau. “It’s just going to take time before people realize what the problem is.”
 
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a scholar and storyteller of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry and a member of Alderville First Nation, sent an open letter on Aug. 27 to the Nepean Redskins and to the National Capital Amateur Football Association. 
 
She writes, “The Nepean Redskins are located in Algonquin territory, and you have a responsibility to live there in a respectable way.” 
 
Campeau is awaiting the response from meetings on Sept. 25 and 26, where the team will be discussing the name change. 
 
This article first appeared in the Leveller Volume 5, Issue 2. 
 

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