Bedford Road Redmen No More

Bedford roadI don’t think there’s a link up to the story yet but I believe the Star-Phoenix is reporting that the Saskatoon Public School Board has voted 8-2 tonight in favour of a motion to get rid of Bedford Road Collegiate’s team nickname the Redmen.

The use of indigenous names and likenesses, like Bedford’s team logo at left, is a very contentious issue in the indigenous community these days and rightly so as it’s demeaning to be thought of as a mascot for a sports team. So congrats to the school board for voting as they did.   

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your inferior human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.

38 thoughts on “Bedford Road Redmen No More”

  1. The “Redmen” name is a far more ambiguous example than obviously horrible names like the Redskins, Braves or Indians. As far as I know, the term “redmen” has never been a common term (positive, negative, or neutral) for First Nations people. Evidence indicates that all of the teams called the Redmen (McGill, Bedford Road, and Balfour) were originally named after the color of the uniforms — like U of T’s Varsity Blues, UNB’s Varsity Reds, or the Cincinnati Reds. It’s even more clear when you consider that some of the teams started as the “Red Men”.

    In the ’60s, Bedford Road chose — unwisely and probably innocently/naïvely — to adopt that logo and forever tie that particular use of the name to the sin of cultural appropriation. In some ways, McGill did a similar thing by temporarily referring to their JV teams as “Indians”. Fortunately for McGill, financial reasons forced them to abandon their JV program shortly thereafter. The brevity of that spell has perhaps allowed them to be able to cast it as a brief blip in a culturally inoffensive history.

    As far as I know, Balfour has not corrupted their name in the same way. The current logo (same as the old one) is an obvious precursor to the typefaces now known as “collegiate”; The school’s facade remains a classic example of Collegiate Gothic architecture*. In that context, it seems obvious that the name is a throwback to a time when nearly all educational sports teams in Canada were named simply after the color worn**. Does that context wipe clear the stain placed upon the name by Bedford Road? Would a simple change to the “Red Men” put enough structural clearance between the name and the fuckin’ Redskins? Would “the Varsity Red” (mass noun instead of the potentially icky plural “Reds”) preserve the sense of tradition without potentially offending? I kind of hope so, but it’s not for me to decide.

    Unless Balfour has a history of misappropriation that I’m unaware of, they should be in a different position than Bedford Road. Even the innocuous sounding “Red & Black” might be too close for comfort with them. Personally, my vote is for “the Bedford Road Accidental Racists”.

    * I was going to suggest pouring one out for Connaught, but it’s: a) too soon; and b) also appropriation.

    ** For example, until 1947 the team at Queen’s was known as “the Tricolour”.

  2. To try to head off some of the typical canards that show up in these discussions:

    a) “Positive Stereotypes” (e.g. Asians are good at math, African-Americans are good at sports, Natives are strong, courageous warriors) are indeed racist and harmful.

    b) Modern sports are usually conceived as an analogue to war. Using First Nations names for sports teams as “tribute” to their martial abilities reduces a complex and varied set of people and cultures to their ability in one small part of their lives. This is especially true given the dearth of such “tributes” in other fields.*

    c) It reduces meaningful cultural symbols to meaningless brands, usually used to enrich people with no association to that cultural heritage. That’s just icky.

    * Why, for instance, is there no “Six Nations Center for Democracy”?

  3. Royal Military College changed its team name from Redmen to Paladins in the 90s, despite the original name’s clear reference to the scarlet uniforms. People upset about this situation need to get over themselves.

  4. Here’s a post from Jezebel about a new female Cree superhero that DC Comics has in development for the Justice League United that’s apparently inspired by a young Cree activist named Shannen Koostachin.

    In November I attended a panel on cultural appropriation that was hosted by the visual arts organization CARFAC SASK at First Nations University of Canada. Here’s an excerpt from the remarks made by David Garneau who teaches in the University of Regina’s Fine Arts department:

    “Some wonder why indigenous artists are applauded when they appropriate and distort Western cultural images while non-aboriginal artists who quote aboriginal artists and styles are pilloried,” Garneau said. “Contemporary indigenous artists are bi-cultural. They’re raised in Western culture as surely as their non-aboriginal colleagues, so they have the right to speak that same visual language and correct its misrepresentations. Non-aboriginal artists, on the other hand, if they’re not similarly bi-cultural, ought not to imitate indigenous culture because it’s not theirs for the taking.

    “When non-aboriginal people borrow indigenous imagery and styles the intent is rarely critical,” he added. “It’s for gain — financial, social, even spiritual. Caucasians aren’t in the habit of hijacking unflattering pictures of them taken by aboriginals and refiguring them to set the record straight. There’s no need. The dominant culture produces innumerable images — some good, some bad — to reflect their many possible selves. Indigenous people are represented less frequently, less accurately, and with less range. So it’s no wonder that some aboriginal artists make an industry of correcting these mistakes and providing better examples.”

  5. Well, well: aboriginal artists, even when they allegedly make an industry of appropriating and distorting cultural images, are purely interested in correcting misrepresentations in visual language, and have no need themselves for gain (financial, social, or even spiritual)?

    Let’s just cut to the chase, and refigure that lovely team logo, with new artistic language: “Garneau’s Cultural Paintmen (TM)”.

  6. pc: The internet suggests that the renaming of the RMC’s teams was mostly based on the desire for a non-gendered name that was an exact cognate in French and English to better represent the bilingual and coeducational nature of the modern school. Sensitivity to First Nations people seems to have been a tertiary motivation at best.

  7. By the way, I’m not sure how cool I am with the choice of “Paladins” for an ostensibly secular institution. Then again, this is Canada, where laïcité does not officially exist.

  8. Balfour doesn’t use any indigenous imagery; they are the Redmen because they wear red. Maybe they should be called the Reds or Redshirts or something?

  9. Brad: The point is that a Canadian Forces institution, one that only started admitting women in 1980, took the initiative in the late 90s to make its team name as inclusive as possible, while some in Saskatchewan agonize over a high school name, in 2014.

  10. In my 3 years at Balfour, this topic never came up once. There was a huge mix of cultures back then.. none complained. Redshirts? that’s good .

  11. A paladin is a knight, so what’s the problem?

    Well put, a gent w. Art is art, and open to anyone.

    Good points, pc.

  12. Society is just SO MUCH better off now. Deep down maybe they just didn’t want to identify with First Nations people anymore.

  13. Ah, pc. I misinterpreted your original comment. I thought that you were pointing out the RMC as a group that capitulated too easily and that you were suggesting those upset about the potential racial implications of the “Redmen” name were those who needed to “get over themselves”. An honest mistake on my part. Sorry!

    Barb: Maybe it’s the Dungeons & Dragons nerd in me, but I consider a paladin to be a “holy knight”. The word originally referred to a specific set of Crusaders — and I imagine my objection to the team name “Crusaders” for a non-Christian institution would be obvious (that said, go hard Holy Cross!). To me, the relationship between the terms “paladin” and “knight” is somewhat akin to “missionary” vs “humanitarian aid worker” or “mujahideen” vs “freedom fighter”. The first term is a subset of the second, with an additional religious element. A knight would have fought another knight in a territorial dispute, for example, while paladins fought the Saracen hordes. I wonder how that makes Muslim cadets feel.

    That said, it’s impossible to divorce European history (especially European military history) from the Christian religion. The code of chivalry embraced by knights had elements of piety, but modern usage of the word “knight” has no religious connotations. Hell, I’d bet more incoming cadets wonder why their team is named after knights with magical powers than are aware of my minor concern. Given Gen Emond’s desiderata, “Paladins” was a fantastic choice despite my silly quibbles.

  14. Balfour used to have a First Nations chief logo on their band shirts in the ’80s, so it has been used in that context. As well, there was the more-than-unfortunate “I See Red People” shirts that the school was selling about three or four years ago.

  15. Only, the thin skinned would make this an issue.

    The name has been involved here for over 70 years.

    Can YOU just live with it? Fuck.

  16. The harm of keeping this name? Is to who. ? The 1st person I see bleeding I will call the paramedics & you red shirted.

  17. Brad: your dictionary reference to “paladin” differs from mine (invovling Charlemagne’s court) but since the whole issue here is “what’s in a name?” , I won’t argue.

    Ron: well put, sir.

    Matthew: surely you don’t need to have explained to you the pun involved in “I See Red People”?

    If ever there was a first-world problem, this is one.

  18. Oh, Ron. What a joy it is trying to decipher your comments. You did ask about the harm though, so I figured I’d address that. Both the American Psychological Association1 and American Sociological Association2 have made statements about the harm caused by Native mascots and have called for their retirement.

    Now I put this to you: The harm of changing this name? Is to who. ? Where is all the blood in the streets from the approximately 2000 Native names and mascots already retired?

    And Ron, I know it’s too much to ask you to quit posting nonsense, but in the future can you please at least try to ensure your nonsense is composed of English sentences? Thanks!


  19. Matthew: The only problem I have with the “I See Red People” shirts is that it was ten years too late to make that hackneyed joke.

  20. Brad: Ron is a paragon of clarity compared to some who comment on the dogblog (see “Venus in Furs” post). I can understand your frustration, but at the same time I’d suggest to you that not all apparently garbled comments may be due to ignorance of language usage, carelessness, willful obtuseness, or whatever. Some folks have dyslexia (NOT saying that Ron does) or other expression barriers.It would be a mark of respect, and of a genuine wish for better communication, just to ask for clarification.
    And before anyone pipes up and says that people with those problems should stay off the internet, let me say that to do so would be discriminatory and offensive to a far, far greater degree than “Redmen”.

  21. Brad: no worries. I’m beginning to realize that clear writing has become an issue for me.

  22. 1 small problem with this blog format is , once one clicks ” submit comment” , there isn’t any recourse for the typist to Remove it.

    Thom colligiate should change it’s name too, As it is an Obvious advertisement for Condoms.

  23. It’s “typist”, Ron. Funny you should mention Thom Collegiate and its team/student body nickname: French Immersion classes began in Grade 9 to raise funds towards a Grade 11 trip to Quebec and/or a Grade 12 trip to France. Each class was asked to choose a name for itself. My son’s class eventually settled on “Thom Cruisers” (pun intended), after the parents had solidly vetoed “Pack of Trojans”. It’s the joke that never seems to get old.

  24. Ya guys! Lay off Ron! There is only one person allowed to correct spelling and/or syntax on this blog. It’s actually great that Barb is learning about others. I appreciate that she gets not everyone needs perfect syntax to be understood. I look forward to more of this from her.

    As for Ron and those who say that a name hurts nobody, science disagrees with you and of course so do I. It may not hurt you, but it hurts other people. It is up to those of us who are living pretty sweet lives to understand the experiences of others. It’s not up to them to teach me, but for me to wake up and realize that MY experience is not THEIR experience, though both are valid. I walk through this world as a woman with pale skin of mostly German and English heritage. I can never fully understand the experience of a First Nations woman or man. Though I can try to understand; I don’t think Ron is trying.

    We live in different worlds, even as we inhabit the same geography and history. I am pretty sure that the name “Dewdney” evokes a far different image for Saskatchewan First Nations people than it does for non-FN residents.

    Everyday racism is a thing ( and I’d say that naming a team Redmen is an example of it. You can argue all day long that it’s just about the colour red, but we all know that it isn’t. It might have been about uniform colour at one point, but it isn’t now.

    Just remember: this isn’t about you or your experiences.

    Also, laugh my ass off at anyone who expects the oppressed to complain loudly about the oppressor. Why didn’t they say anything? Because they are the ones without power! You want people who have little power to complain and win fights against those with power? Why should the onus always be on them to ask to be treated kindly? They’ve been complaining about things for years and now all of a sudden you blink and say, “uh, why didn’t you say anything?” Those with power don’t listen to those without it.

  25. Haha, the blog removed my /sarcasm code. My first 3 sentences were sarcastic, and I got serious with the fourth. Kinda figured it would be removed but I wanted to try.

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