McGill Announces Redmen Name Change

As of the twelfth of April, around 2:30 PM, McGill announced that its men's varsity teams would cease to be called Redmen. I am personally thrilled with the decision. As a history student, I am painfully aware of the atrocities caused by colonialism as well as the devastating ethnic cleansing that took place in the discovery of the "New World". This is despite the fact that the Quebec education system has only recently updated it program to include information beyond the "happy little alliances" the Europeans made with the indigenous groups, and as well as the "helpful innovations" Europeans brought to the Americas. --- Oh wait yeah, and the footnote about the high suicide rates in indigenous communities.

I think the acknowledgment of this history of oppression is vital in overcoming it. That isn't to say however that an acknowledgment is enough. We need action. We need to dismantle, as much as possible, the structures that allow for this oppression, as well as the symbols of it. This includes statues, holidays like Columbus Day and the Redmen name. The only way we can move past this history (this does NOT mean forgetting it) is to acknowledge our wrongs and replace the structures that perpetuate this horrible and devastating history. 

Now I know that the Redmen name wasn't created in reference to the indigenous slur, and was actually a reference to McGill's colour and Celtic roots. However, I feel that the connotation to the indigenous slur cannot be removed. The nicknaming in the 1950s of McGill teams as the "Indians" and "Squaws", as well as the logo that appeared in the 80s of an indigenous man wearing a headdress (later removed in the 90s) exemplifies this indisputable link. Furthermore, for those who do not know of McGill's history, the Redmen name is assumed to be a reference to the indigenous people. 

Image result for mcgill redmen name change

There is also a concern about funding; alumni who attended the school, and who always identified with the Redmen, can perhaps no longer find themselves in this new phase of McGill history. They fear that the name change would erase the history of students who bore the name with pride. I however don't believe that the spirit of the McGill teams rested in their name, but instead in themselves and their teammates. Their performance and relationship was more important than the name. Their sport binded them, not their name. The history of the Redmen name goes beyond the history of the students too. It relates back to the entire history of oppression caused by the colonization of Canada. It simply cannot be isolated the way these alumni are doing. The loss of their funding would be unfortunate. However, the name change and the initiative (although delayed) shown by McGill might also attract other more progressive funding. 

Furthermore, I think it all goes back to one concept, which is that if someone is feeling upset, the situation that upset them needs to be rectified. Tomas Jirousek came forward and announced that the name hurt him, and that proclamation should have been enough. Not only because of the devastating history we have to make up for, but also because of his rights as a human being. Integrating into the society that abused them (and still does) must be hard enough for the indigenous people (hello the ridiculously high rates of indigenous people who find themselves homeless upon leaving reserves and arriving in big cities), we should not make it harder by reminding them (and being proud of) this oppressive history. 

I therefore am very proud that McGill decided to change the name. Despite the fact that it took them an embarassingly long time, it is a step in the right direction, and hopefully other teams (Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Edmonton Eskimos, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, ETC.) catch on and listen to the outcry.

Images:

https://thelinknewspaper.ca/article/mcgill-students-call-for-change-of-the-redmen-name

http://news.sportslogos.net/cleveland-indians-can-change-name-and-survive/controversial-logos/

Source:

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/mcgill-university-to-stop-using-the-redmen-name-for-sports-teams