The chief of a Chilliwack First Nation is applauding a local hockey team for retiring an "inappropriate" mascot — but say it's disappointing that it took so long to remove it.
On Thursday, the Chilliwack Chiefs of the B.C. Hockey League announced on YouTube they would retire the mascot character Chief Wannawin at its Sept. 15 home game.
The mascot is a stereotypical caricature of an Indigenous man, with a headdress and a painted face and wearing a chief's jersey.
Chief David Jimmie of the Squiala First Nation says he urged the team to stop using the mascot and is pleased they are doing that.
"I felt that in an age of reconciliation, and looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, that this was really not an acceptable mascot," he said.
"It doesn't feel good. As a chief, and in the position I am, I take a great deal of pride in what I do. I'm glad the organization is making the change and I think it's a positive change."
The importance of 'chief'
Jimmie said the move came through what he called a good working relationship between the team and his nation.
The team and the nation are working together as the city prepares to host the RBC Cup in 2018, and Jimmie says he is sometimes invited to speak to players about Squiala culture and territory and the importance of the "chief" title.
He acknowledges that the current ownership was not the one that introduced Chief Wannawin but says a mascot like that "should never be there."
CBC was unable to reach anyone from the Chilliwack Chiefs organization to comment on this story.
Parents have to talk to their kids
Jimmie says his biggest concern about a mascot like Chief Wannawin is how it affects children.
He says when young people see him, they might not understand the hurtful legacy of bigoted representations of Indigenous people.
"Parents will tell me they've gone to games and when they see the mascot, they make sure they talk to their children about that mascot," he said.
"As kids, I think you look at a big fuzzy figure, and you might not be processing what it actually is … it's inappropriate."
Jimmie says he has no problem with the team's name or logo — "They wear it with pride," he said — and Squiala is holding a contest for an artist to design new jerseys for the team.