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A Native American–Themed Uniform I Can Get Behind

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[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry from reader Isaac Velgersdyk, who’s going to tell us about a very interesting set of uniforms he recently had a hand in producing. Enjoy! — PL]

By Isaac Velgersdyk

Warroad, Minn., is a small town just south of the Canadian border. Despite having a population of only about 1,800, Warroad is a huge hockey town, and they recently hosted this year’s Hockey Day Minnesota event on Jan. 27, so their local high school boys’ and girls’ teams both played. There were over 10,000 visitors over the weekend and more than 6,000 for these high school hockey games.

Warroad High School’s team is called the Warriors, and they also use an Indian head logo. Although Native American-based team identities have recently become controversial, the story behind the school’s Native American heritage is unique. When the high school was originally established, the land it’s built on was sold to the city by a local tribal chief because he viewed education as so important. His only request was that the high school use the name Warriors. The tribe designed the school’s current logo.

I work for Gemini Athletic, the company that manufactured their jerseys for the Hockey Day Minnesota event. The front crest for the Warroad boys’ team featured the school’s logo with “Warroad Warriors” spelled out in Ojibwe, while the girls’ jersey had the Ojibwe phrase rendered as a chest script. The game program featured an explainer for both of them.

In addition, the boys’ jersey included two memorial patches. One was for Henry Boucha, a Native American hockey player from Warroad who was one of the best high school players in Minnesota history and went on to play in the NHL and WHA. He died last September. The other patch was for Michael Tveit, a Warroad coach who died last summer. Boucha and Tveit had both worked with us to help design the Hockey Day Minnesota jerseys before their deaths.

The girls’ jersey didn’t have a patch for Tveit, because he was a coach for the boys’ team. And for Boucha, the girls’ team honored him by using striping from his era, instead of a patch. In addition, the inner collar of the girls’ jersey featured an illustration of Chief Na-May-Poke to honor his legacy in Warroad.

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Paul here. Very cool story, and that’s a sharp-looking uniform. Here are some additional photos from the boys’ game, followed by a video report that shows both the boys’ and girls’ teams in action:

Big thanks to Isaac for sharing this story with us!

 

 
  
 
Comments (20)

    Great write up! I can’t be the only one who initially thought the first uni’s pictured on the page were baby blue instead of white, can I?

    These are really nice unis. My only complaint — and it’s a small one — is that I’d have preferred the numbers to be black, outlined in gold, for better visibility. Either that or a slightly thicker black outline on the gold numbers.

    Great story! Interesting the hear about Henry Boucha. I remember him because he would wear cool head bands while playing (time before helmets of course)

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    Also the Christian brothers, of stick manufacturer and Miracle on Ice fame. Warroad probably leads the world in hockey equipment manufacturing per capita.

    I like the uni and the story, but how is this different than any other Native American team identity? The only difference here is the ethnicity of the designer. I would think the valid argument against Native American imagery is an argument against the substance of the image itself. We shouldn’t take the position that specific races of people are exclusively not allowed to draw Native images while other races are allowed to draw them.

    If I create an image that’s specific to my culture & ask you to wear it to honor and remember my culture that is different than you randomly deciding to use images from my culture. It gets more complicated when power and (terrible) history are interjected into the situation.
    If you don’t understand that, then it’s very likely you’ve spent most of your life feeling accepted & included -and you probably usually are in a position of power.

    It’s the difference between the local tribe saying “We want you to represent us” and randomly choosing a nickname because “it looks/sounds cool.”

    thank you for the write up! what a cool community event for an outdoor game. even the ceremonial puck drop jacket was top notch.

    I can get behind any indian/native american names. They certainly are a tribute. When names/images get taken away, people forget about them. What should NOT happen.

    I’ve never understood this notion that the only way to keep people from “forgetting” about a marginalized group is to name a sports team after them. According to this line of thought, we should also have team names like the Opioid Addicts, the Single Parents, the Autistics, the Small Business Owners, and so on, in order to raise awareness of these worthy groups — otherwise we might “forget” about them.

    The name Aztecs falls into that category. Indigenous people that were wiped out by Spanish settlers…now some think it’s appropriate to have their name as a mascot, or even some businesses, so that they can be “remembered”…
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    Perhaps the creators of these uniforms will set a precedent where other native nations will collaborate with existing local teams for a uniform and name that would be an honor and benefit the respective nation and local community…

    Full disclosure, I am an academic that studies and teaches colonialism and its impact on Indigenous communities. There is copious evidence that the mascotification of Indigenous identities has a strong, negative psychological impact on Indigenous people, especially children. You aren’t actually making an argument, as you have no evidence, because frankly, none exists.

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    Agreed! I double checked the article & watched the video hoping for an explanation or the name of the gentleman, so I could look it up.
    Assuming it is an old Olympic team coat. I’m guessing 50s or 60s? Looks similar to what I found for the 1964 team but not exact. Maybe it was from another international tournament in that era.

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