Why do non-Indigenous sports teams steal the names and symbols of North America’s first peoples?

McGill University’s continued use of “Redmen” for its teams has many on campus grappling with that question. The name is considered an anti-Indigenous slur. When it emerged in the 1920s, the name Redmen was intended to describe the school’s signature colour, but many still find it offensive and point to McGill’s use of racist tropes over the years.

One expert says it is less about honouring Indigenous culture than reinforcing the view that white society has conquered First Nations.

“It’s the image of this historic Indian that white society defeated and bested and took his image as a trophy,” said Richard King, former Washington State University professor of ethnic and cultural studies. “It reinforces a vision of white settler society.”

King wrote the book Team Spirits: The Native American Mascot Controversy, and he’ll be speaking at McGill Thursday.

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