Redbirds Take Flight
Written by Paul on November 17, 2020
All McGill men’s sports teams to be named ‘Redbirds.’ The University made the announcement this morning, more than a year and a half after dropping the ‘Redmen’ name. The fight to drop the old name was started by Tomas Jirousek, an Indigenous rower from the Kainai First Nation in Alberta:
“Excitement, I think that we can finally put, or at least take another step to putting the name Redmen’ behind us. I don’t think this represents the end of the conversation at all. You know, it’s been decades of Indigenous student athletes feeling ostracized and isolated at Mcgill. You know, the number of Indigenous student Alumni who told me they never felt confortable going into Mcgill Athletics, they never felt confortable competing for the McGill teams because of the names ‘Redmen’. You know we also know the McGill Indians, the Mcgill Squaws there have been pictures of Indigenous students being scalped in yearbooks. That’s the type of legacy the ‘Mcgill Redmen’ name represents at the University and I think certainly today is a good day, we’re no longer going to be remembered or called a racist slur when we compete for our University.”
The University of Toronto Law Student Jirousek saying this is the 1st step:
“This isn’t the end of the conversation. I think the University needs to do a better job or reaching out to communities like Kahnawà:ke, Kahnasatà:ke, they need to do a better job of hiring Indigenous professors at the University. They need to be investing in Indigenous support services, to make sure that Indigenous students properly feel welcomed at the University. There’s a deep and troubling legacy of the ‘Mcgill Redmen’ name at the University and they need to confront that still and that doesn’t end today. And so, I think is a day to be celebrated none-the-less.”
Kerry Kane of Kahnawake plays Attack for the Redbirds Lacrosse team.
“I’d say it’s not really a surprise, I think we kind of new it was coming between the choice of about 2 or 3 names. I think it’s obviously a better name than what we had it at. We’re not playing this year so I don’t know what our uniforms and stuff are going to look like with it but I think it’ll look cool.”
For Kane, this is a step in the right direction:
“I think it’s a step towards it, I don’t think it’s a huge, major step, but I think it’s a small step towards it and it’s a good little act of reconciliation.”
In April 2019, the school announced the change saying it had caused pain and alienation for Indigenous students.