Indigenous leaders say new name – Edmonton Elks – is a step forward


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EDMONTON – Assembly of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief and First Nation Chief Enoch Cree agree that the CFL Edmonton team name change is a step in the right direction towards reconciliation.

“It’s a small gesture, but overall, reconciliation is a never-ending road. It may be a cliché, but you take it day by day, ”explains Cree chef of Enoch Billy Morin.

On June 1, the team unveiled their new Edmonton Elks branding, 10 months after the team agreed to change their name to Eskimos – a racial insult against Inuit people.

“It should have happened a long time ago, but looking back it’s still easy,” says Morin, who gave credit to the franchise for making the right decision after a decade of debate.

AFN Regional Chief Marlene Poitras says this small gesture of goodwill pales in comparison to the gruesome discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, Colombia. British, but nonetheless part of a larger cultural shift towards caring for indigenous peoples. ‘seriously worried.

She agrees it should have happened sooner, but is also delighted that the name was changed, which she said was relatively easy as the team didn’t have to change the acronym on their logos. “It’s really late. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report about 10 years ago and now things are finally starting to happen, ”Poitras said. ” It was time.

Morin says he didn’t play a significant role in the name change beyond “general conversations” with the former CEO of the franchise, crediting Inuit organizations for their advocacy. “They were engaging with the Inuit communities and I thank them for keeping the dialogue open and working with the communities to achieve an ultimate solution,” he said.

The new name reflects the diversity of the team’s fan base, says Morin, who remembers the days when the Gray Cup was in Edmonton and was asked to say an earth recognition before singing the O Canada. . “A lot of little things, at the end of the day, when you think about it they add up and can lead to bigger things collectively,” he said, calling the name change a “milestone”.

“I am happy that reconciliation played a role in this and I wish them well for the future. I am actually a huge fan of Elks. I have to get used to saying this name myself… My father used to take me to games.

Poitras says the name change could only expand the team’s audience in the region. “They will continue to keep their fans and get new ones through their reconciliation efforts,” she said.

“There is so much work that we need to do to eliminate systemic racism and if more organizations or people took small steps it would certainly be much more meaningful for indigenous peoples around the world.”

Elks CEO Chris Presson admitted the change “was probably a few years overdue, to be honest.”

“But I’m glad we’re where we are now,” Presson said. “No doubt we made the right decision.”

As late as February 2020, the team said they would retain the Eskimos name after the results of a year-long consultation process were conclusive, but reversed their position several months longer. late due to a backlash from sponsors, such as insurance provider Belairdirect.

“Dude, it’s been a whirlwind,” Presson told TSN. “We wanted to make sure we got it right, we wanted to make sure we had done the proper research and we wanted to make sure we were creating something special, and we did.

“When you look at the history of the Edmonton football team and the CFL itself, there is a lot to see. To know that you are a part of it and that you have been fortunate enough to make an impact like this is pretty special.

Elks was one of seven finalists for the new name, which all began with the letter “E” – Evergreens, Evergolds, Eclipse, Elkhounds, Eagles and Elements.

The initial option was to call the team “Elk”, but after consulting with linguists from the University of Alberta and the Oxford Dictionary, they determined that “Elks” would be more appropriate.

The new name “reflects the speed, strength and resilience of green and gold and northern Alberta,” a statement from the organization read.

Following the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID, the CFL expects to be back in action this year for a 14-game season starting August 5.

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