A men’s baseball team in Innisfail officially changed its name from “Indians” to “Trappers” in September after deciding to rename the team in 2015 following online pressure and accusations of racism.
Steven Bouteiller, general manager and coach, said the team wanted three years to fundraise for new uniforms, but the timeline was sped up after their equipment shed was broken into and items stolen earlier this year.
He said the team was initially blindsided by concerns over its name.
“It was a team name we inherited. Growing up in Innisfail, that was our Minor Ball name. We never thought anything of it,” Steven said.
Innisfail Minor Ball Association teams still carry the name Indians.
He said in 2015, the men’s team sought advice from local indigenous groups and ultimately decided a new name was in order. Hopefully other groups facing similar concerns will take the time to get properly educated.
“Anytime you’re making a certain group feel hurt that way, you do need to rethink it. No, you’re not going to make everyone happy. But you’ve got to find a way to not segregate a group,” Steven said.
Indigenous-themed sports team names have come under fire in recent years.
The issue resurfaced in Canada in October when the Toronto Blue Jays took on the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series. An Ontario-based group unsuccessfully sought a court injunction to prevent Cleveland from using the Indians name and logo during games played in Toronto.
Team manager Desmond Bouteiller, who played for the Innisfail Indians, said he and his teammates used to wear their uniforms with pride, feeling they were honouring a group of people, not slandering them.
But Desmond said that his thoughts on the matter were later challenged.
He said in a blog post that the most memorable incident was when the Senior AA team stopped for lunch in Lloydminster and ended up playing in a road hockey tournament with teams of indigenous descent.
Desmond said he and his teammates paused when asked what their team name was.
He said the team decided on Trappers in part to honour Innisfail’s early history.
According to the Innisfail and District Historical Society, explorer and fur trader Anthony Henday likely first saw the Rockies from a hill east or northeast of Innisfail.
Innisfail Trappers are raising money for new uniforms on FundRazr.
(With files from The Canadian Press)