Saskatchewan Roughriders organization commits to Sports Reconciliation
- Kerry Benjoe | December 22, 2023
The road to Reconciliation is not an easy one, but the Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club is proving collaboration and inclusion does work.
As part of National Day of Truth and Reconciliation some CFL teams unveiled Indigenous inspired jerseys to mark the day. The Saskatchewan Roughriders chose to do something a little different.
Since 2021, the organization has been actively and quietly working on its own Reconciliation path.
Cindy Fuchs, executive director of the Saskatchewan Roughriders Foundation and co-chair of the Indigenous Advisory Group, said that following the discovery of the unmarked graves in Cowessess the football organization decided to act.
“We didn’t want to sit back and do nothing,” she said. “We have a very loud voice and a very loud brand.”
Fuchs, who has experience working with Indigenous communities through her work with the Red Cross, was tasked with helping to develop an action plan.
“I said, ‘First off you need an Indigenous Advisory Group, so I reached out to people I knew throughout the province,” she said.
The group started with three community members and has doubled in size and worked on Calls to Action 87 to 92 and 14 because they are related to sports and sports organizations.
Fuchs said all the work that’s happening wouldn’t be possible without President and CEO Craig Reynolds. She said he is the one who made the decision to focus on Reconciliation.
“He’s given us total leadership on it and said the only way you can educate is by experiencing the community,” said Fuchs.
The Reconciliation initiatives go beyond Orange Shirt Day, instead the organization focuses on year-round efforts.
This includes the creation of the kisiskâciwan game day, which is a celebration of Indigenous culture and heritage, a northern youth football camp and community outreach.
In 2023, the team has become more visible in the community and have participated in powwows, feasts and other community activities.
“A lot of groups will say, ‘We will give you money for your (event).’ Well, we will give them money, but we also want to be there,” said Fuchs. “We want to interact with the community. We want to find out what’s going on in the community. We want to make friendships. So it’s not just our players. Our players are very visible, but our staff also attends all the events as well.”
She said the organization chooses not to publicize the work they do because it’s not about giving themselves a pat on the back, it’s about connection and education.
Her co-chair Jacqueline Hurlbert, director of marketing, echoed Fuchs’ sentiments.
“It’s good to know people are starting to see what we are doing, but it’s not why we do it,” she said.
Holbert said the Indigenous Advisory Group has representatives from the different departments within the organization. She said this is because everything overlaps and in order to create something successful, they must work as a team.
“From the marketing brand standpoint, we look at how we incorporate it into our game days,” said Hurlbert. “How are we looking at inclusion in terms of fans, but also inclusion in terms of representation in our games whether that’s our in-game entertainment or what we are doing in terms of language.”
An example of this is the kisikaciwin game, which they started last year.
“We leaned into the Cree name for Saskatchewan and what it meant not only to our team but to our province,” said Hurlbert.
The entire day is dedicated to celebrating Indigenous people and culture and led by the Indigenous Advisory Group.
“We are learning and we want to do this properly,” said Hurlbert. “We are walking with it. It’s not a race. We are just making sure that our staff is also being educated as we go through this so everyone is aware.”
Staff activities include beading workshops, history lessons and all staff have been offered the 4 Seasons of Reconciliation training.
Fuchs and Hurlbert say the work is always evolving.
On National Truth and Reconciliation Day the organization released a YouTube video detailing its Reconciliation efforts (https://youtu.be/xoSZkalim4Q?si=foxc-uC8ycUALOTj).