Indigenous

All-Indigenous team off to compete at Roller Derby World Cup in U.K.

Twenty-two Indigenous women from across the globe will be joining together as one team to represent their own individual communities and all Indigenous nations as a whole at the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup.

Team will use international platform to highlight issues like murdered and missing Indigenous women

Mick Swagger (blue) is one of the organizers of Team Indigenous Roller Derby. (TJ Chase Photography )

Twenty-two Indigenous women from across the world are coming together to compete as one team at the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup.

The tournament takes place in Manchester, U.K., this week with 40 teams from 39 nations competing.

This is the first time that Indigenous women from across the globe will make up a team, representing their own individual communities and all Indigenous nations as a whole.

"The main points of our mission statement has to do with being from borderless nations and we want it to reflect the traditional way of people gathering for ceremony, to trade, to dance, to socialize to share community and culture," said Mick Wagoner a.k.a. Mick Swagger, one of the team's organizers.

Team Indigenous Roller Derby will be competing in the Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester, U.K., Feb. 1-4. (Submitted )

Under the banner of Team Indigenous Roller Derby, Wagoner said the team wants to use its international platform to highlight issues like murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada and the United States.

"There's very specific things through the week where they play national anthems and we aren't going to be playing a national anthem, obviously. We want to read a statement out about murdered and missing Indigenous women and have an honour song for them," said Wagoner.

Raising awareness

The nature of a lot of roller derby teams is to create a presence on social media, said Wagoner. Through that presence, teams often will highlight things that are happening in their communities.

"We also want to raise awareness in our own communities, our Indigenous communities, that there's a sport for women to play and it's really fun and we're probably pretty good at it like everyone else," she said.

Wagoner, who is Diné, Omaha and Pawnee, has been playing competitive roller derby for 10 years and competed in the last world cup with Team USA, which inspired her to travel and coach teams from other countries.

"As I did that and continued to meet Indigenous women all over the world, I thought that it would be so amazing if we could all come together and play for the next World Cup together and represent our nations," said Wagoner.

After retiring from competing professionally and focusing on coaching, Wagoner got together with some friends and read over the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, created a mission statement for the team, then began recruiting members.

Tryouts by video

Through Facebook, Michelle Cross a.k.a Squarrior was contacted by Wagoner because she was running a page for Indigenous women of roller derby.

Michelle Cross a.k.a. Squarrior, a Kahnawake Mohawk, will be joining Team Indigenous at the Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester. (Laurence Niosi/Radio-Canada)

Cross, a Kahnawake Mohawk, submitted a tryout video and statement of interest.

Since the team has brought together women from all across the world, the tryout process was done through video submissions to work through geographical barriers.

Cross said she fell in love with the sport from the first time she put on her skates 10 years ago. When she got the email that she was going to the World Cup with Team Indigenous, she said she was on Cloud 9.

Sasheen Wesley of the Tsimshiam Nation is one of 22 women selected to play on Team Indigenous at the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester, U.K. (Sash Wesley)

Wagoner said it's been a special experience to get to know each other as individuals and also realize how similar the players' experiences all are.

Each member to bring own flag

"We're the only folks in the world now that have to quantify how much Indian blood that we have inside of us which is awful and it's a tool of assimilation, it's a tool of government to hopefully not have to fulfil treaty rights," said Wagoner.

Many of the women have not yet met each other in person, but they have been communicating virtually leading up to the tournament.

The team members are all travelling with their regalia to wear in the opening ceremonies and will also all have their unique nations' flags.

"You have these 40 teams from 39 countries and we're Team Indigenous walking in with our own nations' flags. I can't wait for that. I think that's my most exciting part," said Cross.

The Roller Derby World Cup will take place Feb. 1-4. Games will be live streamed

About the Author

Rhiannon Johnson is an Anishinaabe journalist from Hiawatha First Nation based in Toronto. She has been with the Indigenous unit since 2017 focusing on Indigenous life and experiences throughout Ontario. You can reach her at rhiannon.johnson@cbc.ca and on Twitter @rhijhnsn.

now