A UBC Okanagan sociology class is calling on the owner of the Kelowna Chiefs to change the team’s name because it’s racially insensitive.
“We’re trying to start a movement,” said student Averia Debungie, who is part of a Sociology of Sport class at the university. She added that the Chilliwack Chiefs removed their mascot and discussions have arisen recently around McGill’s Redmen, so it is a timely discussion.
Westbank First Nation Chief Roxanne Lindley does not find the name offensive, she said in an emailed statement. A Facebook poll conducted by the WFN yesterday also found that 12 members who replied to the survey did not find the name racist.
“It could also be how they’re not too sure on how (the Kelowna Chiefs are perceived) out here. If they’re in their area and maybe (they don’t know) what it’s like to be a First Nations student at UBC where you do see the racism from outsiders. I think it’s a different perspective,” said Debungie. The WFN’s office council building is 16 km from UBC Okanagan.
The class sent an email to the Capital News yesterday afternoon stating:
“The team logo of an ‘indian’ with two tomahawks springing from his head is offensive and insulting. The logo and club name have no place in our community — a community aiming to respect everyone and taking reconciliatory steps with Indigenous peoples. Therefore, in the spirit of reconciliation and reinventing our relationship with Indigenous peoples across the land, and in the name of decency, respect, and doing the just thing, we call for the removal of both the name and logo. Removing the name and logo would mark a progressive path for the Kelowna hockey team and give it credence as a role model organization in sports teams’ rethinking, rebranding and renaming stereotypical, insulting, and often racial slur names. In moving forward, we hope this letter initiates a conversation/ meeting of those concerned to mitigate this matter and catalyze change within the Kelowna Hockey Junior Club.”
“There’s been movements happening throughout the Canada and U.S. trying to get the names and logos removed. They’re not the ones who have lived that life, and they don’t know what it’s like,” said Debungie.
Grant Sheridan general manager and owner for the Kelowna Chiefs said he values the opinions of the local bands over the university.
“They sent it to the press and didn’t contact us. In nine years, we’ve had four inquiries, all were responded to and invited to meet and discuss and not one person would take us up on that,” he said. “We’ve talked to the WFN in the past… but it hasn’t been an issue until this letter popped up.”
“I would certainly rather hear from a local, provincial or national band than the student body, so I would suggest that they gather some data and some feedback. We’re open to talk about anything and everything,” he said, adding he was disappointed he wasn’t contacted and the class instead chose to contact local media outlets.
Sheridan said he would “always” be open to changing the team’s name, but it has to be with a purpose and intent.
“It’s not something that one person can just say hey, we don’t like the colour of your vehicle you should change it. There are lots of moving parts there,” he said.
He said there are players, billots and staff that are Aboriginal.
An earlier version of the article said Averia Debungie was a professor, she is a student at UBCO.