By Ryan Running Rabbit
It’s no ordinary jersey; no, this one is special, for a special game. For the second year in a row now, the Calgary Hitmen and Siksika Health Services are hosting the Every Child Matters hockey game at the Saddledome. The game is so much more than just a game, it is a ceremony, conducted through sport, that is dedicated to Indigenous youth empowerment through athletics, and creating a new normal for promotion of cultural awareness in sporting events. So it only seemed right for the athletes who role model this dedication to suit up in a uniform that would represent and commemorate this intent.
So how do you capture such an important theme into a uniform? In this case, the spirit and intent was realized by a partnership of local Indigenous artists: Richard Running Rabbit, Siksika Recreation & Parks Lead and his friend, Jacob Alexis.
“It’s totally different working with a First Nations graphic artist because you don’t have to explain the concept,” Running Rabbit explained.
Now there are many concepts that went into this – many – according to Siksika Health Services’ CEO, Dr. Tyler White, who initiated the process and asked Richard to start putting concepts together. White says this took some time, as Richard was so deep into research he had come back to White with “12 mockups”. These were eventually whittled down to a select few.
“Richard came to me with some archived material of Blackfoot quillwork as a reference piece,” Alexis says. From there it was a step-by-step process bringing the idea to life. “I researched old tipi art in the style of the area.”
The area itself is one that Alexis is familiar with. Jacob Alexis is from the Alexis Nakoda Sioux Nation in Treaty 6 territory, but he grew up in the Treaty 7 area. “When I was younger, I used to watch Brent Dodginghorse, so I grew up a Hitmen fan,” he says. This, paired with a life on and around the powwow trail, he was really able to bring the “Every Child Matters” and Blackfoot art to life on the jersey. He likens this to a special experience, “Basically for me it’s like when you see dancers coming in for [a powwow] grand entry: the style, the boldness. Everything is placed just so.”
On the jersey and process itself, Alexis expressed both feeling a sense of gratitude and honor from Siksika and the Calgary Hitmen, “I really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this kind of stuff. I’m thankful to the Siksika community for allowing me to be a part of this.”
The Every Child Matters game is part of a much larger movement of the same name, and is a recognition and commitment to action to ensure that all children know and experience their precious significance, including those who may have been lost (but never forgotten) while at Residential Schools in Canada, along with the adult survivors and their love ones who may still be healing from this experience.
It is hard to look at the full game uniform and not feel excitement about what the partnership between Siksika Health Services and The Calgary Hitmen has become. “I’m so proud of the jersey and what the game has turned into, all aspects, I always say it’s more than just a hockey game,” beams Siksika Health CEO, Dr. Tyler White.
Together, the partners in this hockey game and initiative are working to address stereotypes and racism by advancing inclusion in our communities through the promotion of Indigenous culture, language and history, and promote healthy lifestyles for all youth by highlighting the benefits of participation in sport.
Co-creator of the jersey, Richard Running Rabbit also expressed his excitement and hope for the jersey. “I think when the Hitmen wear this jersey, they’ll really make an impact,” he says.
“The concept for this game is ‘Every Child Matters’ and Jacob really captured that.”
The full kit can be seen on the ice Sunday March 27th at The Scotiabank Saddledome. Keep an eye on Siksika Health Services’ social media channels for any updates on the game.
Jacob Alexis owns and operates his own small business, and his artwork and apparel can be found “@TribeLifeOrignalz” on Instagram and Facebook.
Purchase a Jersey to Get in the Game, and Support a Good Cause
A limited supply of the jerseys have been made available for purchase; portions of the proceeds of the sale of this jersey will go to supporting minor sports in Siksika. Visit https://www.flamesport.com/products/hitmen-every-child-matters-jersey
Quotes & Impressions from the February 3, 2022 Every Child Matters Jersey Unveiling Event:
“The land we’re on right now – this area is called Mohkinstsis in our Blackfoot language. There wouldn’t be a Calgary without the Blackfoot people. Blackfoot have played an integral part in this area for a long time. Many other Nations also call this area home. They had collaboration at that time time – it was about building relationships, about building bridges instead of walls – and we want to keep that kind of relationship going so that we can work together towards real change.” ~ Chief Nioksskaistamik, Ouray Crowfoot, Chief of Siksika First Nation
“It’s not just a movement or a hashtag; when we say that every child matters, we’ve got to live that every day, to ensure that our children, our grandchildren, don’t have to endure the things that my parents and grandparents had to endure.” ~ Chief Nioksskaistamik, Ouray Crowfoot, Chief of Siksika First Nation
“It is an absolute privilege and honour for our players to wear this jersey. What a WOW moment to see this jersey today! This has been a challenging year for everybody, and for our players to be back on the ice and a part of something as important as this…it is about making the world a better place. Thank you to Tyler White and his team for your leadership and guidance to help us get back in the game in a good way.” ~ Mike Moore, VP Calgary Hitmen
“This has been a long time coming. Yes it’s about the jersey, but also about the relationship and its intent. We have this opportunity together to create an important platform to acknowledge that every child does matter. It’s encouraging and inspiring, and brings hope at at time when we need it.” ~ Dr. Tyler White, CEO Siksika Health Services