Indian Country Today
A youth team of First Nations hockey players was the victim of racist insults, war whoops and chants while competing in a Quebec City youth tournament. The First Nation Elites Bantam AAA hockey team is made up of First Nations hockey players aged 13-15 from Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
During the game, Tommy Neeposh, the team manager filmed a 43-minute long video that showed how the youth team was subjected to racist remarks to include the tomahawk chop, war whoops throughout the Coupe Challenge Quebec AAA tournament, held from May 25-27.
At the end of the 43-minute video, a white-haired gentlemen in the stands can be heard yelling “Gang de sauvages” which translates “Gang of savages.”
“The war cries (were) the worst,” Neeposh told CTV News. “(They were) telling our boys that you guys don't belong, your team sucks, Native kids can't play hockey, they can't skate.”
Neeposh said the team spoke with both the referees and the host team, the Quebec Bulldogs, but nothing was done. Neeposh has filed a complaint with the tournament organizers.
Since nothing has happened to Neeposh's satisfaction, he posted a video on Facebook which has gained international attention.
The video has since been removed.
Tommy Neeposh, Cree from Nemaska, Quebec talked with Indian Country Today about the incident.
What prompted you to record the video in the first place?
I thought to myself, I’ve got to catch some of this stuff, to reveal this. But I never expected something like ‘gang of savages’ to be yelled from a parent. It was truly way over what I was expecting. Also during the game, the referee was extremely unfair. When I complained, I got kicked out. Our hockey game was full contact, and the Native boys are bigger for their age than the other French boys. The other kids were hitting legs, charging.
The Native boys made a goal and celebrated. The other players taunted my team with a war whoop, and the same ref was laughing at the war cry. The adults don't bother stopping their kids, the ref has the power to stop this type of thing. I asked, “are you going to let them do that to our face?”
How often does this happen?
This happens most of the time, when it involves children it’s just worse. I used to manage a team and would travel to a lot of racist small towns. This has happened all throughout my son’s minor days. Organizations need to step up and stop this type of behavior.
What happened after the video ended?
The man who yelled, he probably thought I was going to fight, but I was just thinking, wow, this is racism. I said, ‘wow, you literally just said that on camera,’ The man said, ‘there is not racists here.’ But saying gang de sauvage is completely racial. I just walked away.
Throughout all of this, the team was riled up, as soon as I got in the hallway, I told the boys to forget about it, they were about to say things to the other team in response, but they went inside. Other kids were giving the Tomahawk Chop as we went into the locker room. As I walked in, I heard gang of savages.
What else happened during this tournament?
I got kicked out for saying, ‘this is hockey, not soccer.” I also looked at the coach on the other team, and he called us savages in front of their players. One of the event participators even agreed the ref was making unfair calls.
What was the outcome of the match?
The kids played all the way through even though we felt like leaving the match. We lost due to the players called out for 40 minutes of penalty and the score was still 5-4. It feels like they hated us because we were too good.
What is your position on Native mascots?
Why do they choose a symbol that represents our culture through a cartoon. This is our ancestry. A lot of people say we should go back where you come from.
What needs to be done?
Most of these players will play under Hockey Quebec in the future, so this racism needs to stop. A private tournament should have a code of anti-racism. I tell my team if there is any racism, they are off the team. There should be a bylaw, racism should be a serious crime, this is just way too much.
I try to teach about racism, I try to tell them we are going to face this type of racism our whole life. I had a kid quit because of racism and he was one of the best - the only reason was racism.
I asked the Quebec Bulldogs organization to apologize, they said there was nothing they could do. That said, I want this to get out, c’mon its 2018.
Follow Indian Country Today associate editor Vincent Schilling on Twitter @VinceSchilling