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Grey Cup victory, forgotten history


Grey Cup 101 is in the books. The green and white confetti has been trampled over, the line-ups at the Roughrider stores are no longer out the door, and fans are likely caught up on their sleep after a huge celebration in honour of Saskatchewan winning their 4th Grey Cup victory.

Reviewing the blogs, newspaper coverage and television commentary that came with this victory, I noticed a theme when Saskatchewan’s history is discussed. It is said Saskatchewan was built on the backs of the settlers and pioneers, who had determination, vision, and cooperation. It is said the Riders fans have deep roots in this province, and they bleed green as they don their fanciful green gear to faithfully watch their team win or lose.

I understand this narrative. I really do. I am a Nehiyaw (Cree) person who was adopted into a fourth-generation settler home as a baby. I grew up in "small town" Saskatchewan, on farms and in various towns with populations ranging from 300 to 30 000, watching football with my dad and my grandpa. I would never wear a watermelon on my head as some fans do, but I have a green sweater specifically for games and I bought my son a Rider flag when he was old enough to wave it.

I happily went to the Grey Cup last Sunday. I dug out that green sweater; I contemplated wearing a green Riders hat; and I borrowed my cousin's jersey to wear over my parka. But I kept my critical mind open that day and here are a few of my thoughts.

I was reminded when I watched the RCMP march around the field in their red serge that the police force means something different to First Nations and Metis people. The RCMP/NWMP were active agents in our oppression, arresting and imprisoning ceremony leaders, parents of residential school-age children, and people trying to feed their hungry families.

I watched the Snowbird jets, the key public relations tool for the Canadian military, fly over the stadium before kick-off. I remembered that the Canadian military was dispatched to various sites in Saskatchewan, such as Batoche, Cut Knife Hill, and Frenchmen’s Butte, and they had First Nations and Metis men, women and children in their sites.

I observed how Canadian Pacific Rail was the "1st Down" sponsor, with a glamour shot of a train on the jumbo-tron every time a team made 1st down. Canadian Pacific Rail, Canada’s first transcontinental railway, is said to have been instrumental for settling the west. However, I thought of how my people were deliberately and meticulously starved out of the lands they called home, particularly in the Cypress Hills, with deaths happening in numbers we will never know.

After the Riders won, I went home without stopping at the "Green Mile" along Albert Street. Just a few blocks north of the mile is where Dewdney Avenue intersects. The street is named for Edgar Dewdney, Indian Commissioner and one of the masterminds behind the campaign of mass colonization of this particular territory that was begun in the 1870s and continues on today.

I like football, and I probably always will. I just wish that when stories about Saskatchewan come out, people would know that the real history of this territory didn't start in 1905. I want people to know the history behind settlement, and the damaging strategies that the Government of Canada and their agents employed to push us, the original inhabitants, out of the way to make room for that settlement. 

But mainly, I want people to acknowledge that history here begins so long ago that we can't even imagine it. And while I can enjoy a Grey Cup victory, I want that history to be honoured.

Tasha Hubbard is a documentary filmmaker, an Assistant Professor at the University of Saskatchewan in the Department of English, and a Broadbent Fellow.