Tonight is a special night for Ethan Bear and Indigenous communities across the country.
As the Edmonton Oilers prepare to take on the Calgary Flames in an exhibition game, the Oilers announced that Bear will be wearing a jersey with his Cree syllabics on the name bar.
“It will be an honour to wear this jersey tonight,” Bear told the Oilers website. “I feel like I will be wearing it for all those Indigenous players who came before me and those Indigenous kids dreaming of playing in the NHL.”
Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild had high praise for the Oilers, Bear and the NHL.
“The Oilers continue to lead the way with the power of sport to build good relations among our Peoples, Tribes and Nations,” Littlechild told the Oilers website. “As the International Chief for Treaties 6, 7 and 8, and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Edmonton Oilers and the National Hockey League for this most positive act of Reconciliation.
Coming from Maskwacis (Bear Hills), in our culture, we have a naming ceremony on which we rely for self-identity and positive self-esteem. It took us many years at the United Nations to secure the right to use our writing system Cree syllabics and to use our language for our own names for communities, places and persons.
“The spirit name in Cree for Maskwa is also one of our sacred teachings of courage and that is what the bear represents. Ethan brings all of us great pride with his strength and natural ability to overcome challenges. This is significant and people everywhere will be reminded when they see the syllabics on Ethan’s jersey to have courage, be confident and be brave.”
All in all, it’s a tremendous gesture that the Oilers and Bear is doing tonight. Personally, I think it should be a thing we see more of in the future and I hope Bear is able to continue to have his Cree syllabics on his jersey.
On Twitter: @zjlaing