The Media Co-op

Local Independent News

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!

Police Everywhere, Justice Nowhere

Idle No More gathering barred from entering Saskatoon public school to protest racist team mascot

by John Lenin

The logo in question re-designed for the tournament. The bright red skin colour is emphasised.
The logo in question re-designed for the tournament. The bright red skin colour is emphasised.
Police officers and school officials guarding the front entrance and keeping eyes on anyone who walks through the door.
Police officers and school officials guarding the front entrance and keeping eyes on anyone who walks through the door.
The principal told the organisers to hold the protest off the school property. The group moved outside and took part in a short roundance on the sidewalk. The temperture of the evening was close to minus 30 with windchill.
The principal told the organisers to hold the protest off the school property. The group moved outside and took part in a short roundance on the sidewalk. The temperture of the evening was close to minus 30 with windchill.
Several more officers were placed inside the venue.
Several more officers were placed inside the venue.
A police officer (in far middle in front of the logo next to a man in red jacket) monitoring those who made it inside.
A police officer (in far middle in front of the logo next to a man in red jacket) monitoring those who made it inside.
Lee and supporters holding signs "Change Redmen" outside the public school.
Lee and supporters holding signs "Change Redmen" outside the public school.

TREATY 6 TERRITORY—On January 12, dozens of Indigenous youth and community members gathered in front of Bedford Road Collegiate in Saskatoon where the BRIT (Bedford Road Invitational Tournament) Final was held. The gathering was called to protest a team name, logo, and mascot known as Bedford "Redmen" considered by many as racist. It was also organised under the banner of Idle No More, an Indigenous-led movement that has swept across the globe in last several months. For Erica Lee, an Idle No More organiser and a graduate of the public school, the connection between everyday racism and what the movement stands for is important.

“Idle No More is a movement about protecting Indigenous rights and the environment. First and foremost, the pursuit of Indigenous rights and sovereignty requires education; education on our history, the treaties, and the impacts of colonization. The casual racism of using caricatures of Indigenous people as sports team mascots (Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, Bedford Road Redmen) is a visible example of how colonization continues,” she says.

According to Lee, many First Nations people have been fighting against the Bedford Redmen logo for decades. Countless organizations and school boards across North America have banned the use of Indigenous mascots such as the American Psychological Association which went further to issue a report on the harmful effects of such imagery on Indigenous students. Regardless of the changing climate, she points out, Saskatoon Public Schools continue to promote the Bedford Redmen logo while only 33 per cent of First Nations students in Saskatchewan manage to graduate from high school.

“Saskatoon Public Schools need to demonstrate commitment to the education of First Nations students, and part of that commitment is the elimination of racism in schools,” says Lee.

Their initial plan was to buy tickets to the basketball game, lift signs with slogans “Change Redmen”/”Idle No More” at half time, and leave shortly after. However, what was planned to be a peaceful protest took an unexpected turn when a group of Indigenous youth including Lee were denied entrance to the venue by four police officers, Bedford staff and teachers who told them they were not allowed in because the protest would “ruin the fun for everyone.” Lee points out that the refusal was also based on racialised criteria in which persons with Indigenous decent were singled out.

“First Nations people were being stopped at the door while buying their tickets, and told to leave if they were protestors. Multiple people were told to leave by school board employees before any gathering occurred. I also received messages that others had come to the school in support, but left immediately because of the intimidating police presence," she says.

A few of them that bought tickets made it inside and watched the game, but they were constantly monitored by the police and Bedford Road staff.

As a graduate herself, Lee recounts that Bedford teachers were told not to discuss the logo issue in the classroom on a daily basis. Despite the school administration's response, she feels that public opinions on the issue are slowly changing. Her and other campaigners have received comments from Bedford parents, students, and alumni alike that recognize the hostile environment discussion around the logo is causing. However, the incident at the BRIT Final demonstrated to her that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“It’s disturbing that Bedford Road Collegiate thought it was necessary to go to such lengths to prevent peaceful protest. When I graduated from Bedford Road with honors and scholarships, I never thought that I would be treated as a terrorist upon my return. As a Nehiyaw (Cree) person, I am presented the image of the Bedford Redmen and told that it is something I should be proud of, because it represents my culture; but I see no honor in a school that uses a red-faced mascot while oppressing Indigenous voices. First Nations people are only valued when we’re in our place; as silent and stoic historical figures, not individual people – this is what I see in the Bedford Road Redmen logo.

“Bedford Road Collegiate is a public school; it needs to be a safe place for everyone, and promote education and discussion instead of censorship and oppression.”


Socialize:
Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.
703 words

Join the media co-op today
Things the Media Co-op does: Support
Things the Media Co-op does: Report
Things the Media Co-op does: Network
Things the Media Co-op does: Educate
Things the Media Co-op does: Discover
Things the Media Co-op does: Cooperate
Things the Media Co-op does: Build
Things the Media Co-op does: Amplify

User login


Google+
Subscribe to the Dominion $25/year

The Media Co-op's flagship publication features in-depth reporting, original art, and the best grassroots news from across Canada and beyond. Sign up now!