The Moose Jaw Warriors hockey club has announced it will launch a formal review of its logo.
The logo, red in colour, features a person wearing an Indigenous headdress. It appears on the team’s jerseys, arena walls and most merchandise associated with the WHL franchise.
Alan Millar, the general manager of the Moose Jaw Warriors, notes the review does not guarantee the logo will change.
“The first step is we want to determine if we feel a change is necessary,” the general manager said. “This is all about engaging and understanding and talking about diversity and talking about inclusiveness.”
“The hockey club will engage with our stakeholders and community partners as part of this review process,” the Warriors said in a statement.
The organization has had four logos, including the current one in use. The first logo, used in 1984, depicted an Indigenous person riding a skate blade, while throwing a tomahawk.
In 2014, the Warriors revealed a 30th anniversary jersey which bore the original logo. The organization received significant criticism. Millar admits that is when the Warriors first engaged in discussions surrounding cultural insensitivity.
“In hindsight when I look back, I would be humble and honest to say it probably was a mistake,” Millar said. “It’s safe to say the first two logos in our history would definitely be considered culturally insensitive today.”
However, one member of the Indigenous community in Saskatchewan feels the use of the headdress on the current uniform is racist.
“To use this symbolism of Indigenous people as part of their team, it’s wrong,” said Lyle Daniels, who works as an inclusion manager for Build Together Saskatchewan.
Daniels spearheads getting more underrepresented groups, like Indigenous people, into the construction trades.
“Change is happening, but there’s still an incredible amount of education that still needs to happen,” he said.
Daniels says the headdress is a very sacred symbol for the Indigenous people and signifies the amount of respect they give an elected leader in the community.
“The headdress is a sacred bundle of feathers, and a lot of the time they’re eagle feathers, that’s given to a chief when they’re either elected and or their given that right by the community,” Daniels explained.
Indigenous hockey trailblazer Fred Sasakamoose played with Moose Jaw when they were known as the “Canucks”.
The Order of Canada recipient was named MVP of the Western Canada Junior Hockey league in 1953 when he played in Moose Jaw. He went on to become the first Indigenous person in the NHL.
“There was even more blatant racism in the 50s and 60s when he was playing,” noted Daniels. “Now a days, it’s about time we look at it and realize the importance of just getting rid of it.”
A handful of professional sports teams have undergone review processes similar to the Warriors, and changed their names.
Most recently the CFL’s Edmonton Football Club and the NFL’s Washington Football Team have opted to change their names.
Millar says this review isn’t a reaction to moves by these sports organizations.
“This isn’t a knee jerk reaction, there’s no outside pressures here. There’s no significant complaints that are leading us or forcing us to consider this,” said Millar.
Millar says they’ve already met with the Southern Plains Métis and the Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association.
“The point we’re at today is to do a thorough review, and make the right decision for our hockey club, the right decision for the City of Moose Jaw, and the right decision for the Western Hockey League.”
Daniels suggests educating the entire organization, from top to bottom.
“Don’t be afraid to bring in an elder or somebody that can spend time with hockey players,” Daniels said.
The WHL season is scheduled to begin December 4. Millar said the club will continue to use the logo this season.
The review is expected to be completed in early 2021. If the club decides to change its logo, it would be unveiled ahead of the 2021-22 season.