Anderson Storr loves hockey.
Having only discovered the sport two years ago, the eight-year-old from Aklavik now basically lives on skates. So when his favourite hockey team, the Edmonton Oilers, were eliminated from the playoffs in four-straight, he was understandably disappointed.
But that was taken to a whole other level when he heard about racist attacks against a Ethan Bear, who is Cree.
“They’re bullying him,” he said. “It’s really sad.”
He added he “wouldn’t want to deal with that as a player.”
So Storr, who is both Gwich’in and Inuvialuit, decided to show his support for Bear and put together a ‘Team Bear’ poster, now on display in front of his family home.
His gesture is one of many in a Beaufort Delta-wide outpouring of support for Bear.
Joining Storr in their support for the Edmonton Oiler and participating in the first-ever Indigenous Athletes Jersey Day on May 28, staff and beneficiaries of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation donned jerseys to show solidarity.
“Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is anti-racism,” said IRC Chair Duane Ningaqsiq Smith. “IRC recognizes the detrimental and lingering effects that acts of racism, bias and oppression have on people and strongly condemns any such behaviours.
“Racism is not always so obvious, it can be entrenched in colonialistic policies within governments and other institutions. These need to be drawn out and addressed.
“IRC is proud of Indigenous success. We fully support this cause, not only for athletes but for everyone who has to overcome ongoing racism throughout life and within our careers and communities.
“Racism needs to be acknowledged and the societal conditions need to be corrected to be made safe for Indigenous people and especially for youth.”
The idea for Inidgenous Athletes Jersey Day came from a B.C. teacher, Naim Cardinal.
Also showing solidarity with Bear on behalf of the Gwich’in Tribal Council, GTC Grand Chief Ken Kyikavichik issued a statement in support.
“The sad part of being Indigenous or a person of colour in North America is we face racism, discrimination and bigotry from time to time,” he wrote. “It doesn’t matter if you are a professional or a general labourer. It happens at all levels and is often done in silence or brushed under the carpet by thoughts or statements that ‘it isn’t a big deal’.
“It can be overt statements/comments or simply inaction. The best thing we can do is stand by and support those who have experienced this treatment and show that these attitudes and behaviour is unacceptable. I am a proud Oilers fan and an even larger fan of Ethan Bear. By his being out there on the ice, we stand a little taller and exhibit more pride in who we are as Indigenous people.”
As for Storr, he’s not going to let a few internet trolls stop him from playing the game he loves.
Understanding the spirit of the game far more than many, Storr even notes he’s not holding hard feelings over the Oilers getting knocked out and is hoping the Winnipeg Jets can bring Stanley home in 2021.
He had a parting message for Bear as the playoffs raged on, however.
“I made a sign for you about bullying,” said Storr. “You are cool.”