Ahead of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the Canadian Football League’s podcast ‘The Waggle’ brought together a panel featuring Amy Shipley, Kevin T. Hart and Brian Chrupalo for the latest installment of the league’s Diversity Is Strength Conversations series.
Joined by moderator Donnovan Bennett, the three guests discussed the ways in which sport can play a role in reconciliation, specifically in regard to the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action 87-91.
“(When) we talk about engagement, retention, getting Indigenous women into spaces, it’s the principle of ‘Nothing about us without us’,” said Shipley, the Participation in Sport Lead with Sask Sport.
“Really, what that says is if we want to look at engaging more women, it’s important to ask women and invite women to the table and listen to their voice. You know, as Indigenous women, we have solutions and we need to be invited into spaces in order to share those solutions and be part of that engagement process and not just that token woman sitting around a table. You need to really bring people in,” Shipley added, noting that the same concept can be used for any specific groups of individuals that organizations are looking to engage.
It’s a sentiment that was shared by Hart, the CEO and president of Indigenous Football Canada and coach of the U18 women’s national Indigenous team. In 2022, during the early months of creating Indigenous Football Canada, Hart and Football Canada president Jim Mullin had been planning to form the first-ever national Indigenous football team to compete at the Canada Cup.
“At the time, we did not know until around February (of 2023) that it was going to be a U18 women’s team. That U18 women’s national Indigenous tackle football team was the first national Indigenous team ever in Canadian sport to compete at that level with the other provinces and territories,” he said.
The team featured 19 players from across Canada to compete in the six-a-side tournament, including two from Saskatchewan, quarterback Aurora McCutheon from Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation and offensive linewoman Summer Papequash of The Key First Nation. The event ran from July 23-29 in Ottawa with the U18 team playing three games.
“Years from now, when I’m long gone, people will look back and say, ‘That’s the first team that ever did it.’ And it was a team of young women that will pave the way for other teams to come,” said Hart.
Rounding out the panel was Chrupalo, a CFL official with over 18 seasons and five Grey Cup games — including the 109th edition in Regina— to his name. During the 2022 Blue Bombers’ Truth and Reconciliation night, he made calls in English and Ojibwe, making history as the first CFL official to do so. In his comments, Chrupalo noted how “sport is a great opportunity to bring things forward” citing the U18 women’s team and creating connections with Indigenous people by speaking Indigenous languages.
“To go to that game and announce penalties in Ojibwe, you see the number of people wearing orange in the crowd, the Indigenous people in the crowd that were brought in from communities to witness a CFL game, those are impactful moments. And we need more of those impactful moments.”
To listen to the full podcast, visit cfl.ca.
Written with files from the Canadian Football League