By Julia Magsombol
Local Journalism Initiative
This year four junior hockey players from Golden Rockets are wearing orange jerseys with their Indigenous names on the back.
The idea came from Nathan Andrew, an 18-year-old junior player and former graduate of Mount Baker Secondary School.
“I took the chance. I was inspired by what Ethan Bear [a Cree-Canadian professional hockey defenceman] did with his last name. I thought it’d be pretty cool. I never had the chance to express or show people that I’m proud to be Indigenous,” said Andrew.
He explained that the idea started when he played in the Okanagan Hockey Club last year when he had the chance to have his Indigenous name on his jersey. This year he heard that his team would be wearing an orange jersey, so he thought he might just add the names again.
“I’m sure some of the other Indigenous guys were thinking the same thing. We’re excited to be able to get the chance to wear this and be supported by the community. It feels pretty good.”
Andrew shared that one of his goals is to bring awareness to other players; that anyone can play the game. It doesn’t matter where they’re from, who they are, or what race they are.
“It’s the game of hockey; you’re just out there to play. And if you’ve given it all, then it will work out for you.”
Golden Rockets posted on their social media that their plan is “to also raise awareness for Indigenous communities and the effect that residential schools had on them.”
The back of Andrew’s jersey has his Indigenous name in Ktunaxa language, which is ‘Big Swan’ in English. He explained that this name came from his mother’s side of the family and his great-grandfather’s last name.
Andrew said when they get to a certain age, the elders decide whether they are ready for the name. He explained that it’s like a responsibility to carry on the last name from their past generation.
“I was pretty excited. I was ready to have this last name. I can take on the responsibility.”
The Pioneer asked what does wearing this specific jersey mean to him.
“Firstly, it made me very proud. Growing up in an all-white environment, there are not a lot of native kids around my school. I was slightly shy growing up about my Indigenous roots. But as I got older, I became more proud of it. I’m not afraid to let people know I’m proud to be Indigenous and wear my last name.”
Coming from Aq’am Community with both Indigenous parents, Andrew started playing hockey with his father when he was four years old.
“Someone gives you a chance to represent your people and community. I know it makes my community and family pretty proud. And it also makes me proud too — to be able to do something and spread awareness with my family’s name and my people.”
Andrew hopes to continue to wear his jersey in future games.
“I want to be a role model to my community. I just want to be the guy the community looks up to,” he said. “Hopefully, I can go to college, play hockey, and maybe be a pro someday. Then people from my community can see that anything’s possible, and you just got to work for things that you want.”
Andrew advises young players to enjoy their time on the ice and give it all they have every day . . . to enjoy their moments with their teammates, friends, and family.
For more information, visit Golden Rockets at https://www.goldenrockets.com.