A mascot wearing a Plains Indian war bonnet in Chilliwack had become “unacceptable” in this day and age of reconciliation.
That’s the take on it from Dave Jimmie, Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe president and chief of Squiala First Nation, who spoke to The Progress about the recent retirement of Chief Wannawin, the long-standing mascot of the Chilliwack Chiefs hockey team.
The Sept. 15 home opener at Prospera Centre will be Chief Wannawin’s very last game.
The mascot travelled with the Chiefs for more than two decades, appearing at countless events.
But the time was ripe for his retirement, and it was Chief Jimmie who quietly suggested it months ago, as co-chair of the RBC Cup Host Committee.
“I raised the issue because it’s important for those who don’t understand it, to talk about it,” he said. “There was an openness to having this discussion, so we did.”
Launch planning for the 2018 RBC Cup in Chilliwack was ongoing and the local Sto:lo chief felt he couldn’t participate in any good conscience, alongside the presence of Chief Wannawin.
“It’s not a good representation of the local Sto:lo people or our cultural traditions,” he said about the feathered headdress historically worn by tribes of the Great Plains.
All it did was contribute to the promotion of harmful and racist stereotypes, Jimmie said.
Some may not get it, but it can be hurtful to portray an Indigenous culture in the form of a fuzzy, cartoon-style character.
“No one wants to be made fun of, growing up. This one has been around so long that many people may not have seen it as making fun,” said Chief Jimmie.
The logo for the 2018 RBC Cup will feature the concept of unity with the Halqu’meylem word, Letsemot, meaning ‘one heart, one mind.’
“This is to demonstrate the importance of working together,” he said, about aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. “It about relationship-building.”
This type of action does in fact contribute to reconciliation efforts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.
“It has got to start somewhere. Just having the conversation, with ears and eyes open to what has gone on in the past, while not the be-all and end-all, does contribute to it,” he said.
“The positive outcome from this is that we are building bridges.”
A new mascot will be unveiled Oct. 6 at Prospera Centre.