Warriors throwback dubbed insensitive by committee

Justin Crann
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Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee will address "caricature"

The Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee (CDAC) has a bone to pick with the Moose Jaw Warriors' 30th anniversary jersey.

"The issue is the stereotype: the jersey depicts a caricature of an Aboriginal person," Barb Frazer, chair of the CDAC, told the Times-Herald Monday. "It's cartoon-like. It's a cartoon of a native man wielding a tomahawk, and it misrepresents a dynamic culture."

The jersey is a throwback featuring a cartoon Aboriginal figure wielding a tomahawk and a hockey stick — the logo the Warriors initially used when they moved to Moose Jaw from Winnipeg in 1984.

The CDAC's letter will be considered as part of the committee's minutes in Monday's regular council meeting, according to council's agenda.

In it, the CDAC states, "(the jersey's) cartoon-like character depiction of a tomahawk wielding 'Native/Aboriginal' male, misrepresents real Aboriginal culture in an era of positive cultural awareness and celebrating diversity."

Frazer took personal offence at the image because she is, herself, of Cree ancestry.

"My family, we have an oral history … we have such a magnificent history on this land, prior to contact," said Frazer. "The warriors in First Nations culture represent the best of our community. They are the ones who are first to step forward in times of need. … That character is totally insensitive, culturally, to the richness (of the culture) and to the warriors."

The CDAC is requesting council forward its letter to the Moose Jaw Warriors organization.

"It was felt it was important to bring this to attention and ask council to forward this to the Warriors to have some discussion," said Coun. Don Mitchell, who sits on the CDAC. "It's also recognized that there is more than one side to the relationship with the Warriors, and that very recently, they sponsored a major event with Fred Sasakamoose … that was a very respectful event."

Sasakamoose, who played for the Moose Jaw Canucks and was the first Aboriginal NHL player, learned to play at a residential school. The Warriors sponsored his visit to Moose Jaw to discuss his life on Feb. 12, 2013.

"This (throwback jersey) was felt to be a step backwards by the committee, and that feeling was pretty unanimous," Mitchell added.

However Alan Millar, the Moose Jaw Warriors' general manager, said the organization is only returning to the original logo as "a matter of honouring the history of our club and tradition."

He said he was unaware of the letter or the committee's issue with the jersey until the Times-Herald contacted him on Monday, and that fan response to the jerseys has actually been "very good" with more than 200 of the jerseys pre-ordered.

Millar stressed the team won't be wearing the jersey for every game of the 2014-2015 WHL season.

"This is something we're only going to wear on specific nights next year, and I don't imagine it will be worn more than six or eight times," he said.

"We have nothing but respect for our First Nations people and we have always felt that the Warriors' name has been in respect of their heritage," added Millar. "(The jersey) has been about historical significance and the tradition of the team."

But Frazer said "it represents a stereotype.

"We're looking at cultural insensitivity across the whole sports industry … in the portrayal of Aboriginal people as they were shown in the Colonial era," she said. "Why bring back old stereotypes from past days? … These symbols are not useful in this day of reconciliation."

Within the letter, the CDAC recommends the Moose Jaw Warriors organization involve Aboriginal people in "matters pertaining to positive cultural representation" of First Nations people. Frazer reasserted that desire.

"What we're recommending as the Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee is that they have an Aboriginal person come in and advise them," she said.

Millar said the organization invites the CDAC to contact him if they desire a meeting.

"We're a community-owned team and we're willing to meet to discuss what we're doing," he said. "I'm sure if the committee would like to contact me, a representative of our staff and board of directors would be happy to sit down with them."

You can follow Justin Crann on Twitter or like him on Facebook.

Organizations: Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee, Times-Herald, First Nations Moose Jaw Warriors organization Moose Jaw Canucks

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Winnipeg

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