Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent state schools from using Native American names, symbols, or imagery as their mascots or team nicknames. One of the schools that would be impacted by that bill passing is Warroad High School.
The Warroad Warriors use an image of a Native American as their primary logo for their sports teams. Washington Capitals forward TJ Oshie is an alumnus of the school and penned a letter on behalf of the school district advocating that Warroad be able to keep both its name and logo despite the proposed legislation.
Oshie, who is over a quarter Ojibwe (Chippewa), says that the city of Warroad and playing for the Warriors helped further connect him with his Native American heritage.
My name is TJ Oshie. I currently play for the Washington Capitals and have just finished my 15th year in the NHL. As an American Indian I have proudly represented the United States on multiple occasions including the 2014 Sochi Olympics. I’ve proudly represented the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux making it to the Frozen Four in all 3 years. Lastly, I have proudly represented the Warroad Warriors for 3 years. Making it to the State Tournament all 3 years winning 2 State Titles. I wore my Warrior jersey with exact same amount of pride that I wore my United States Olympic jersey.
The fact that people are trying to take away the Warrior logo, in my opinion, is a travesty. I grew up having my grandfather and great uncle telling me stories what it meant to play for the Warriors. My dream as a kid too was to play for the Warroad Warriors. Not to play in the NHL. To take away the Warrior name and logo is to further remove the Native American Culture from our country. If there are areas in this country where the indigenous people of that area would like the name and logos removed I would support that. Warroad is not one of those places. Let us keep our name and logo. Let the Tribal Nation on whose ceded territory a school district resides decide when the logo should be changed. Let us continue celebrating the American Indian culture in Warroad.
Thank you for your time.
Warroad Warriors #19
Thank you @TJOshie77 for your support of the Warroad Warrior! @GovTimWalz @peggyflanagan Please give us the opportunity to educate you on the impact of forced removal of our Trademarked identity that raises money for Indigenous Youth programs. @WHockeytownUSA @Lady_Warriors00 pic.twitter.com/8X69JwMrxZ
— Warroad Schools (@WarroadS) April 18, 2023
Oshie moved to Warroad in 2002 when he was 15 years old and that’s when he first learned he was of Ojibwe descent. In Warroad, he experienced his first traditional powwow which is a social gathering meant to honor the culture, and was given the Anishnaabemowin name “Keeway Gaaboo,” which translates to “Coming Home”.
“City of Warroad, this is the most special place for any kid to grow up in,” Oshie said tearing up then. “My only regret is that I didn’t move here until I was 15.”
As Oshie stated, he played three seasons for the Warroad Warriors, leading the team to two state titles. Warroad went undefeated his senior year and Oshie, one of the most dominant players in the state, scored an astonishing 100 points (38g, 62a) in 31 games. He also chipped in 85 points in his junior season.
It’s official, TJ Oshie’s #19 will never be worn in Warroad again.
Hockeytown raised his banner next David Christian, Billy Christian, Henry Boucha and classmate Gigi Marvin. pic.twitter.com/QAVNrD68SJ
— YHH (@YouthHockeyHub) July 31, 2022
Oshie’s second cousin, Henry Boucha (graduated 1969), also starred at Warroad as a hockey player and had his number retired. Oshie’s great uncle Max (graduated 1948) found a high level of success at the school, too.
Boucha, also an Ojibwe hockey player who grew up in Warroad and played in the NHL, commented on the potential ban as well.
“Some of these people that wrote these bills have never been to Warroad,” Boucha told The Rink Live’s Ingrid Harbo. “They’ve never realized the importance — on such a grand scale, that we are so proud of that.
“You compare that to the Washington Redskins where they don’t have a basis,” added Boucha. “Their basis came from the bloodshed when the United States was colonized — they basically had a bounty on men, women and children out on the East Coast, and when they bought the bounties, they called them the ‘redskins’ because of the blood that ran down the faces of men, women and children.”
According to Warroad Public Schools, the Warroad Warrior name and logo originates from Chief of Warroad and Buffalo Point, Ay-Ash-A-Wash. Ay-Ash-A-Wash was wounded in a battle between the Ojibwe and Sioux tribes and crawled 40 miles back to Warroad to the surprise of his tribe.
Ay-Ash-A-Wash’s son Na-May-Poke decided to sell part of his land allotment on the Warroad River in order for the first Warroad School to be built. It is said that he agreed to sell the land at a very cheap price and in return asked that the name Warriors be instilled for athletic competition.
Warroad also states that both the name and logo have been previously upheld and supported by the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media based on the history of the Warrior name in a “pipe ceremony and dedication as the tribute to the War Trail”.
Furthermore, they say that the Indian Community, the Local Indian Education Committee, and the Indian Education Department helped design the logo to go along with the name Warriors to be used as the only logo moving forward. The trademark for the logo is owned by the district’s American Indian Parent Advisory Committee. The sale of items featuring the logo also generates funding for Indigenous youth programming in the community.
The exact wording of the proposed bill leaves room for schools to seek an exemption, but those details are still not finalized. It is not known whether or not Warroad has or will apply for that exception if the legislation is passed.
Headline photo: @warroadbrand/IG
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