The most controversial sweatshirt in Canada?

CBC has picked up the story of an aboriginal student in Saskatchewan who was harassed by school officials for wearing a bring pink hoodie with the words “Got land?” on the front, and on the back: “Thank an Indian!”

Jeff Menard's "Got land? Thank an Indian!" shirt design.

Got land? Thank an Indian! (Design by Jeff Menard.)

It all went down in Balcarres, Saskatchewan. The student – 13 year-old Tenelle Starr – lives just outside of Balcarres, on the reserve for the Star Blanket Cree Nation. A teacher told Starr that people were saying the message racist, and that it was making students uncomfortable, and ordered her to turn it inside out. Presumably Starr complied, but later a complaint was lodged, and school officials were contacted by First Nations representatives. The school has since changed their tune.

Tenelle Starr in her "Got land? Thank an Indian!" sweatshirt.

Tenelle Starr in her “Got land? Thank an Indian!” sweatshirt.

The Star Blanket Cree Nation is a signatory to Treaty 4, one of the 11 “Numbered Treaties” between aboriginals and the Canadian monarchy. Treaty 4, signed , covers most of the land in Southern Saskatchewan, as well as parts of Manitoba and southeast Alberta. It is that treaty which allowed European settlers on those lands. So, while I can’t comment on whether the sweatshirt is “racist”, I can certainly say it’s based on truth. That might be what made people “uncomfortable”.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time this sweatshirt has caused problems in Canada.

Gelsey Sumner in her "Got land? Thank an Indian!" sweatshirt.

Gelsey Sumner in her “Got land? Thank an Indian!” sweatshirt.

In a story at the end of last year ignored by major news outlets, another student wearing a similar sweatshirt was kicked off a bus in Winnipeg. Gelsey Sumner was forced to walk alone through a rough neighbourhood where there had recently been a violent sexual assault.

Though she had witnesses, the city dismissed her complaint because there was no video on the bus.

The sweatshirt was designed by Winnipeg native Jeff Menard. He plans to give one to Neil Young during his “Honour the Treaties” concert. Amusingly, he’d even like to get Stephen Harper in one. (I wish him luck with that, but you gotta love the attitude.)

I have a hunch they’re going to be pretty popular soon.

Update

Tenelle Starr, the 13 year-old student mentioned in the first part of this post, may have received some nasty threats via her Facebook. The Saskatoon RCMP may be investigating. I haven’t been able to confirm any of this yet.

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The most controversial sweatshirt in Canada? by Indi in the Wired is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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