Saskatchewan school officials backtrack after banning ‘Got Land? Thank an Indian’ hoodie

Tennelle Starr wearing the "controversial" hoodie.

Tenelle Starr wearing the “controversial” hoodie.

Abigale Subdhan, National Post, January 15, 2014

Saskatchewan school officials are backtracking on a decision to ban a First Nations student from wearing an Aboriginal land rights hoodie to school.

Tenelle Starr, 13, told CBC News that teachers asked her not to wear the sweatshirt to school because other students were uncomfortable with its message. The hoodie read “Got land?” on the front and “Thank an Indian” on the back.

“They told me to remove my sweater because it was offending other people,” the eighth grader at Balcarres Community School, which is about 90 km outside of Regina, told CBC.

“[The school board] communicated further with local First Nations representatives and felt that the slogan on the shirt clearly was meant to provide the community with a message,” Ben Grebinski, director of education for the Prairie Valley School Division said after the decision was repealed. “It was not intended to be offensive.”

One teacher reportedly told Starr that people saw the message as “racist” and she was asked to wear the hoodie inside out instead.

Mr. Grebinski said that parents and other community members heard about the story and called the school to complain about the sweater.

“It was done to be respectful of those individuals that felt the slogan on the shirt may have been offensive. It was a way of maintaining harmony within a community.”

But Starr felt differently about the situation.

“We were taught Indians were on this land first, so why are people offended?” Starr told CBC.

Starr is a member of the Star Blanket Cree reserve, located just outside Balcarres, Sask. The Star Blanket Cree Nation is one of the bands covered by Treaty 4, one of 11 numbered treaties signed between Canadian Aboriginals and the monarchy.

Treaty 4 represents land that covers most of southern Saskatchewan, as well as parts of west Manitoba and southeast Alberta. The treaty, which was signed on Sept. 15, 1874, allowed Europeans to settle on historically Aboriginal land.

After Tuesday’s consultation between school officials and First Nation community leaders, the school changed their mind and said that the hoodie’s message was acceptable.

“I wear it proudly around the school,” Starr said.

Sheldon Poitras, a council member for Star Blanket First Nation and a spokesperson for Ms. Starr’s family, said that he is pleased with the outcome of the incident.

“There were just some communication issues that needed to be taken care of about [Ms. Starr’s] goal for awareness for the treaties,” he said. “Once we all got on the same page, everything was fine.”

‘Thank an Indian’ shirt creator says orders flooding in

Jeff Menard, creator of the "Got Land? Thank an Indian!" design.

Jeff Menard, creator of the “Got Land? Thank an Indian!” design.

Winnipegger Jeff Menard says he wants to give his people pride, not cash in

CBC News, Jan 16, 2014

The Winnipeg man behind “Got land? Thank an Indian” shirts says his phone has been ringing off the hook since a Saskatchewan girl helped make the phrase famous.

“Orders are just coming here left, right and centre,” Jeff Menard told CBC News. “I’m being flooded with calls.”

Tenelle Starr, 13, recently ran into opposition wearing her pink “Got land?” sweatshirt to school in Balcarres, Sask., although people at the school eventually relented.

Since Tuesday, her story has been on headlines and broadcasts across Canada.

Menard, 37, a member of Manitoba’s Pine Creek First Nation who’s on disability from his regular job as a letter carrier, started selling shirts with the slogan in 2012 after spotting it in the U.S.

“The reason why I started this was to bring awareness to the Canadian natives and to unite our people and make them proud of who we are,” he said. “I’m not in it for the money.”

The message he wants to get across is that aboriginal people were in North America first, but they shared their land, signed treaties and want everyone to prosper, he said.

Although the term “Indian” is considered out-of-date by some people, Menard said he’s fine with it.

“I love the word Indian. I love being called an Indian,” he said.

He said about 1,000 t-shirts and hoodies have been sold so far, but with the recent publicity, orders are really starting to pick up.

“It’s not bad for sales,” he said.

Menard said he’s been in contact with Starr’s family and let them know he fully supports Tenelle in her effort to express her views.

“What I would say is, ‘Stand up, be proud of who you are, keep wearing your t-shirt.”

Menard said he is in the process of obtaining a trademark on “Got land? Thank an Indian”.

Posted on January 16, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The girl’s page is now down because she has been targeted for an abuse campaign by End Race Base Law – a Facebook hate group:

  2. I sent the principal an email chastising him.

  3. I am from vancouver and i supports Tenelle Starr.She has a good political conscious.It is good that she has lots of support.The Native People in canada are living under an apartheid system like the Black People in South Africa had to live through and the Palestinian People are living through under israeli apartheid

  1. Pingback: Indian Country 52 #03 - "Got Land?" | David Bernie

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