Morden city councillor says local hockey team name is offensive

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A Morden city councillor trying to get the local senior A men’s hockey team to change its Morden Redskins name had her motion defeated at a council meeting earlier this month.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2015 (2600 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Morden city councillor trying to get the local senior A men’s hockey team to change its Morden Redskins name had her motion defeated at a council meeting earlier this month.

Councillor Heather Francis said she brought forward the motion because the Redskins name is offensive to aboriginal and non-aboriginal people alike. She wanted council to send the team a letter requesting to change its name.

“I’d been doing a lot of thinking about the name, and a citizen wrote council a letter last year expressing his concern about the name,” said Francis. “It struck me that as leaders of the community, we should take a stand.”

Facebook The name of the Morden Redskins senior A men’s hockey team is now being questioned by a city councillor.

Francis argued the name reflects on the entire Morden community because the team uses the city’s name. Only Mayor Ken Wiebe sided with her.

Some councillors were in agreement that the name should be changed but didn’t think it was council’s role to pass a motion on it, said Francis. The local government does not have any ownership of the team. The motion was struck down by a 5 to 2 vote.

In the past, officials have argued the name is historical and one that former players take pride in. Changing the name would be like erasing that history.

The Morden Redskins have been so named since 1983 and are the best senior A men’s team in the province as winners of the 2015 Manitoba Cup which is played for by the champions of Manitoba’s five senior A men’s hockey leagues. The Redskins are the two-time defending South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League champions and hold the record for the most league titles in the SEMHL’s 64-year history with 12.

General manager Brent Meleck, an aboriginal man himself, said the Redskins team is not changing its name.

“The name’s been around for a long time. We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re a just a hockey club providing a good place for people to play,” Meleck said.

“Putting on that jersey, it’s an honour to put on that jersey. We’re out there every night, playing some good hockey, we’re the best league in Southern Manitoba and we take pride in the name.”

While the team shares its name with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, which is facing ongoing controversy about the name, the Morden Redskins logo is similar to the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks which is not considered controversial.

The Blackhawks in Chicago were named after a military unit in the First World War that the NHL team’s founder Maj. Frederic McLaughlin helped lead as an army officer. That unit was named after a famous Sauk chief from the American midwest.

Niigaan Sinclair, associate professor of native studies at University of Manitoba, has no doubt what council and the Morden Redskins hockey team should do.

“These things are inherently racist and violent, and come from a racist and violent history,” Sinclair said. “The term ‘Redskins’ has its own historical use: the conquest, violence and extermination of indigenous people.”

He said the Chicago Blackhawks team name, which plays the Winnipeg Jets here on Thursday, is slightly different in that it is the name of a famous chief from the Chicago area. But care must be taken in how it is used and treated, as well, he said.

“It’s different than savages, redskins, or Indians, which are all blanket stereotypical respresentations.”

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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