As Tampa returns to Stanley Cup Final, local Indigenous groups point out Canada's abuses

'The maple leaf flag is red with the blood of Indian babies.'

click to enlarge Sheridan Murphy (center) with Indigenous activists outside the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 7, 2021. - Dave Decker
Dave Decker
Sheridan Murphy (center) with Indigenous activists outside the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 7, 2021.


Stanley Cup fever once again rocks Tampa Bay, as hockey fans cheer on the Lightning to beat the Montreal Canadiens. But as game two of the series approaches on Wednesday afternoon, local Indigenous people have other reasons for opposing the Canadiens: 1,143 Native children’s unmarked graves and a history of genocide in Canada.

“At this point I know the Roman Catholic Church is ignoring and counting on the willful ignorance of its parishioners to weather the storm in Canada,” says Sheridan Murphy of the Florida Indigenous Alliance (FIA). “Same with the government of Canada, which is just tossing platitudes and ducking. We’re offering the hand of dialogue, and they’re giving us the middle finger.”

Murphy points that out because so few Canadian residential schools (which he says is just another term for concentration camps) have been checked for graves, Indigenous people know there must be many more.

He and the FIA believe that acknowledging the genocide and making repatriations for the trauma that occured is more important than Canadians concentrating on the Stanley Cup. 

“Not acknowledging it, and just playing their hockey is unacceptable,” says Murphy. “The maple leaf flag is red with the blood of Indian babies.”

The graves were discovered this month at four residential schools, which were run by the Catholic Church from the 1880s through the 1990s. During these years of the colonization of Indigenous people in Canada, the Canadian government forcibly removed at least 150,000 ​Indigenous children from their homes and brought them to residential schools to have their cultures forcibly deconstructed. 

Sexual and other forms of physical abuse at the hands of the Catholic staff were grimly common. Oftentimes, the children were barbarously murdered.

The massive amounts of bodies discovered so far account for only five of Canada’s 139 residential schools. While Canadian government officials like Justin Trudeau have offered statements of remorse, the Catholic Church has remained silent, despite outcry from Indigenous people.

So far, the Native tribes of Canada have had to pay for the ground penetrating radar to search for their massacred relatives. FIA calls on the Catholic Church and the Government of Canada to take responsibility and pay for the discovery of the graves, so the bones can be returned to their families. 

The group also calls on the Catholic Church to repeal the Papal Bull, which deemed Indigenous people as expendable in the eyes of the church, and that Indigenous people should be, "Subjugated - and brought to the faith." This decree helped enable genocide across the Americas. 

Only two of the 350 residential schools in the U.S. have been checked for remains. Dozens of remains were discovered at those sites. Both of those searches were paid for by Native tribes as well. 

July 1 is Canada Day. Leading up to the holiday, four more former “schools” are set to be searched, once again paid for by the tribes there. Indigenous people in Canada and America are calling for a boycott of the holiday.

This is not the first time members of the FIA have pushed back on a major sporting event. Back in February, they protested the Kansas City Chiefs at the Super Bowl, decrying the team’s abuse of Native imagery and culture. The demonstration received national attention, but the Chiefs have yet to respond to the widespread protests led by Indigenous people.

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About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia previously wrote for the USA Today Network, The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Scalawag Magazine, and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 


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