Firstly, as a parent, I appreciate your hard work as a community organization. I believe the Nepean Redskins has a strong desire to create an environment of respect and fair play. I also understand from the comments some of you have made publicly that you do not believe the term “Redskin” is racist or offensive to Indigenous Peoples.
I live in Peterborough, Ontario and I am a member of Alderville First Nation, which is near Cobourg, Ontario. We are Anishinaabeg or Ojibway. I live less than 250 km away from Nepean. The Nepean Redskins are located in Algonquin territory, and you have a responsibility to live there in a respectable way. My son is ten years old and is actively involved in both Peterborough’s youth soccer and lacrosse programs. I showed him your website and he thought it was amazing. He asked if he could sign up. Then I pointed to your name and your logo. His response was “Oh, so Anishinaabeg kids aren’t allowed to join?”
This is what the name “Redskins” evokes in his mind. It tells him he is not welcome in your organization. It tells him, he will not be treated with respect as a First Nation’s boy. This is also what it tells Indigenous parents.
This may not be your organizations intention, but this is the message you are sending our kids. You are also telling non-Native kids that it is acceptable to use the term “Redskin”, that it is a term that is respectful to Native Peoples and that using our culture as a mascot is a respectful thing to do, even though we are repeatedly telling you none of this is true. This is setting your kids up for failure because the first time they call an Indigenous person a “redskin”, they are going to find out you betrayed them. Some of them are even going to find that out when they look up the term in a dictionary and find out “Redskins” is “an offensive term for Native Americans”.
We are telling you that “Redskin” is a racist term, and I am asking you to listen. This is not a new issue – Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples in Canada have been fighting this issue for decades. Several teams, both in the United States and Canada have listened, and changed their names to better reflect the values their organizations are trying to communicate to the public.
Ian Campeau and A Tribe Called Red are fantastic people. They are kind, gentle, articulate men who live there lives in a responsible way and have dedicated a great deal of their time to empowering First Nations youth. My son looks up to them. Ian has offered on several occasions to discuss this matter with you and your organization in person. He has offered to fundraise to help your organization find a different name and make the transition away from Redskins name and logo. I encourage you to take up his offer. This issue is not just important to Ian, and it is not just important to local First Nation communities. It is important for Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and it is an opportunity for Canadians to grow, learn and do the right thing.
Leanne Simpson (Anishinaabeg), PhD
Frost Centre for Canadian & Indigenous Studies