Stick designers from Sask. hope they can spread awareness
CBC News: Thousands of new orange and black Every Child Matters hockey sticks now on shelves of sporting goods stores across Canada are meant to do more than just send pucks into nets.
Clay DeBray designed the sticks to spread awareness about what happened to generations of Indigenous children who were forced into Canada’s residential school institutional system.
“My oldest son is a junior hockey player and I want him to have a stick so his teammate sitting right next to him can look at that stick and ask the questions about what that stick is about,” said DeBray, a Métis man originally from Duck Lake who is now manager of the Snipe and Celly Sports Excellence retail outlet on Flying Dust First Nation in northwest Saskatchewan.
“My son will be able to tell the story. He’ll be able to explain the symbols and use it as a conversation piece.”
What story do the sticks tell?
DeBray said the sticks’ colours were not chosen randomly. He said more people are starting to associate the orange and black colour scheme with the movement to teach what happened at residential school institutions.
“That’s what the orange coming out of the black represents.”
The stick features five symbols on the shaft of the stick — an orange teddy bear, an orange teardrop, four shades of skin-toned hands, an Indigenous-drawn turtle with a medicine wheel graphic and a traditional Métis sash — and a sixth on the blade — an orange eagle feather.
“I want to make sure the eagle feather is put on the blade because when it’s raised in the air in celebration after a goal, it’s the closest to our creator,” DeBray said.
DeBray worked with Muskeg Lake Cree Nation Elder Eugene Arcand throughout the design process. Arcand attended the St. Michael’s Residential School institution in Duck Lake and the Lebret Indian Residential School institution during the 1950s and 1960s.
‘Every Child Matters’ hockey sticks designed to spark conversations about movement
WATCH| ‘Every Child Matters’ hockey sticks designed to spread awareness about Canada’s residential school institutional system: Duration 2:09
Thousands of new orange and black Every Child Matters hockey sticks are now on shelves of sports stores across the country. The sticks are the brainchild of Clay DeBray who manages a sports store at Flying Dust First Nation in Saskatchewan. He wanted to spark conversations about the Every Child Matters movement and the legacy of residential schools.
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Arcand said Canada needs to do a better job completing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. He said that it will be impossible to reconcile before people get a thorough understanding of the truth of what happened at Canadian residential school institutions.
He said he hopes the sticks and other future sporting initiatives can help spread that “much-needed” public education.
Hockey as an avenue to spread awareness
DeBray graduated from St. Michael’s in the 1990s. He said he is grateful he doesn’t face the same traumas as generations before him, but still wants to do his part to spread awareness.
He has previously sold orange T-Shirts, but said he didn’t see them worn on many days other than Sept. 30, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. That’s why he turned to hockey, a passion he shares with people of all backgrounds across Canada. He said he thinks the sticks can keep the topic at the forefront all year.
Patricia Dorion, a member of Okanese First Nation living in The Pas, Man., learned about the Every Child Matters sticks after her nine-year old grandson Drayden saw them on TikTok and asked for one. She said she asked him why he wanted one. “He said people need to know what happened to survivors. He said my great-grandma and great-grandpa survived residential school,” Dorion said. “I’m proud of him for knowing and he’s proud of who he is.”
Dorion said the residential schools era can’t be a secret anymore.
Sam McKegney, who teaches Indigenous literature and sport in the English department at Queens University, said hockey rinks are a good place for more Canadians to learn about the Every Child Matters movement. “Part of what the stick is seeking to do is leverage hockey’s popular cultural capital in order to encourage Canadians to think and act differently,” McKegney said.
“There’s a real opportunity there.”
He said anti-Indigenous racism is persistent in Canadian hockey, and that more needs to be done to tackle it both at both the grassroot and institutional levels.
Thousands of sticks being sold across Canada
Around 3,000 of the sticks are being shipped to Sports Excellence retailers around the country, including about 700 at Snipe and Celly on Flying Dust First Nation.
Extreme Hockey and Sport in Regina is also selling the sticks. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries about them. I don’t think they’ll last very long,” Donny Uhren, the store’s general manager, said. “This is something very special to our market and our culture.”
DeBray said the sticks were built to be used on the ice or in the street. “I don’t want the sticks just hung on the wall,” DeBray said.
Part of the proceeds from each Every Child Matters stick will be split among three groups: the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in Winnipeg, the Orange Shirt Society and the Saskatchewan Survivors Circle.
DeBray said these won’t be the last Every Child Matters hockey sticks. He is already working on the second version with a new design and is looking at expanding to goalie sticks.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Will McLernon, Reporter
Will McLernon is an online journalist with CBC Saskatchewan. If you have a tip or a story idea, send him an email at email@example.com