Sudbury

First Nations leaders react to Copper Cliff hockey name change

First Nations leaders representing Anishnawbek communities in northern Ontario are applauding the Copper Cliff Minor Hockey Association. The association recently announced the teams will no longer be called the Copper Cliff Redmen.

Chief Shining Turtle says this is a step toward reconciliation

The hockey teams in the Sudbury neighbourhood of Copper Cliff have used the name "Copper Cliff Redmen" for decades. A new name and logo for the team will be unveiled later this year. (Erik White/CBC)

First Nations leaders representing Anishnawbek communities in northern Ontario are applauding the Copper Cliff Minor Hockey Association.

The association recently announced one of its teams will no longer be called the Copper Cliff Redmen, changing it for a name that's less insensitive toward Indigenous peoples. The new name will be the Copper Cliff Reds.

The association is also changing the team logo which currently looks similar to the Chicago Blackhawks logo. The new logo will represent the community of Copper Cliff.

"It shows that there's some progress being made and it makes me really appreciative and it makes me think that we're turning a new page and we're actually making progress," said Chief Valerie Richer of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek. 

She says she never spoke with the hockey association about the name and logo change because she wasn't chief when the process began, however, she's happy to see them taking these steps and wishes more teams would do the same.

"Really it's a form of racial or ethnic stereotyping and it promotes a misunderstanding and prejudice which contributes to all kinds of other problems, negative relationships, you know, it sends bad messages to our children," said Richer.

"It's time that we all agree to make this change and put a stop to these kinds of stereotypes, misconceptions and characters, we need more inclusively."

Chief Shining Turtle from Whitefish River First Nation says he's been lobbying the hockey association to change the name for years.

Valerie Richer, chief of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation says she's happy to see the change from the Copper Cliff Minor Hockey Association. (supplied)

"I'm really proud of Copper Cliff, really proud of their association, I think it's long overdue but a very courageous effort," said Turtle.

Turtle's son once played for the Copper Cliff Braves and Turtle says it was difficult to see him wearing that jersey and difficult to explain when his son asked him about it.

"It was a difficult conversation and the imagery on the jersey, I didn't want him to carry that through any portion of his life, so it is difficult explaining to people but it is better understood from the humility of young people," Turtle said.

He says he plans on going to the first game of the Copper Cliff Reds to show his support and appreciation for the association.

"These small steps toward reconciliation, they don't always have to happen at such big level like the federal parliament, you know to some very young eyes that walk in and out of that rink on a daily basis, you know there can be that truth that we are equal in sport and in life."

About the Author

Jamie-Lee McKenzie is from Kebaowek First Nation. She's a Reporter at CBC Sudbury. She's also worked as a Reporter and Associate Producer at CBC Manitoba and CBC North in Whitehorse. Reach her on Twitter @JamieMcKenzie_