Decolonizing Sport: Indigenous Hockey in Canada

Conference Highlights, Panels and Plenary
Indigenous-Settler Relations and Decolonization, Sociology of Sport

Decolonizing Sport: Indigeneity, Hockey, and Canadian Nationalism explores the ambivalent relationship between hockey, indigeneity, and settler colonialism in Canada. The project analyzes the role of hockey in the naturalization of the settler Canadian nation state and the simultaneous mobilization of the sport as a vehicle for libratory self-expression and community building by Indigenous players, coaches, and fans. The phrase “decolonizing sport” is employed here in two senses: the first pertains to the need for hockey to be decolonized, given its colonialist baggage and its saturation with racist, sexist, and homophobic iconography and discourse; the second pertains to the capacity for the sport to be exercised in ways that serve Indigenous resurgence. The project brings together eminent and upcoming Indigenous and settler-allied scholars with expertise in Sport History, Gender Theory, Narrative Studies, Sociology, and Filmmaking to pursue the following objectives: 1)To historicize and interrogate the relationship between hockey and settler colonialism in Canada, with attentiveness to the role of indigeneity in the social production of settler entitlement through sport and the impact of such processes on Indigenous peoples; 2)To analyze how Indigenous experiences of the sport are imbricated with and/or exceed the power dynamics of dominant hockey culture in Canada, with attentiveness to how hockey can be imagined and promoted in ways that support Indigenous sovereignty, community wellbeing, and gender equality; 3) To leverage the popular cultural capital of the sport in Canada to promote settler understandings of colonial history, and therefore to encourage reflection on Indigenous dispossession, settler complicity, and pathways toward historical justice.

Presentations:

“We Were the Pelican Blackhawks”

Mike Auksi, Faculty of Education and Kinesiology at McGill University

This talk will explore the hockey history of the Anishinaabe of Lac Seul First Nation in northern Ontario. The talk centers upon preliminary discussions with my father, George Kenny, a residential school survivor who represented the Pelican Lake Indian Residential School Blackhawks in the 1960s. My talk will unpack the enabling and constraining properties associated with his falling in love with ice hockey while in a highly oppressive colonial environment. As my father shared with me, “Playing hockey gave us a sense of community. We were proud to represent the Pelican Blackhawks. It made it so you weren’t just another Indian kid.”

“Doing What it Takes”: Experiences of Indigenous Elite Hockey Players

Shane Keepness, University of Victoria

This paper examines the experiences of Indigenous elite hockey players both past and current. Through qualitative interviews, I examine not only the struggles physically, emotionally, and financially that impact Indigenous elite hockey players, but also how they negotiated their notions of Indigeneity while playing on primarily with non-Indigenous players, and away from their communities. Through their narratives, I examine the complexities that some players have had to negotiate during their careers and how they have renegotiated their identities after their elite careers have concluded.

Comparing socio-demographic information of Indigenous male and female hockey players at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships

Kalley Armstrong, Department of Anthropology at Western University;  Janice Forsyth, Department of Sociology and Director, Indigenous Studies at Western University; Alex Benson, Department of Psychology at Western University

Using survey data collected at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Whitehorse, Yukon, this paper will examine the socio-demographic patterns of male and female athletes who competed at the event, with a view to better understanding how sport can better meet such athletes’ needs.

Everyone is so different: Using Indigenous-led survey research to enhance youth involvement in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships

Taylor McKee, Department of Sociology at Western University and Department of Philosophy, History & Politics at Thompson Rivers University; Janice Forsyth, Department of Sociology and Director, Indigenous Studies at Western University; Alex Benson, Department of Psychology at Western University

Using survey data collected at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Whitehorse, Yukon, this paper will explore the socio-demographic patterns among Indigenous athletes who competed at the event, with a view to demonstrating the need for greater regional and community-based understandings of sport organizing for Indigenous youth in Canada.

Tags: Indigenous Studies, Sport

Organizers: Robert Henry, University of Saskatchewan, Sam McKegney, Queen's University