Oilers’ Bear to honour Indigenous heritage with name bar in Cree syllabics

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Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear will be wearing a special jersey during Tuesday’s exhibition game against the Calgary Flames.

Bear, who is from the Ochapowace Nation in southern Saskatchewan, will honour his Indigenous heritage by displaying his jersey name bar in Cree syllabics.

“It will be an honour to wear this jersey tonight,” the 23-year-old said. “I feel like I will be wearing it for all those Indigenous players who came before me and those Indigenous kids dreaming of playing in the NHL.”

Bear impressed in his rookie season with the Oilers, appearing in all 71 games while recording 21 points and averaging over 21 minutes of ice time. Now he will get a chance to help the team compete for the Stanley Cup and he will do so while representing his community on an international stage.

“As the International Chief for Treaties 6, 7 and 8, and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Edmonton Oilers and the National Hockey League for this most positive act of Reconciliation,” Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild said, according to NHL.com.

“The Oilers continue to lead the way with the power of sport to build good relations among our Peoples, Tribes and Nations. Coming from Maskwacis (Bear Hills), in our culture, we have a naming ceremony on which we rely for self-identity and positive self-esteem. It took us many years at the United Nations to secure the right to use our writing system Cree syllabics and to use our language for our own names for communities, places and persons.

“The spirit name in Cree for Maskwa is also one of our sacred teachings of courage and that is what the bear represents. Ethan brings all of us great pride with his strength and natural ability to overcome challenges. This is significant and people everywhere will be reminded when they see the syllabics on Ethan’s jersey to have courage, be confident and be brave.”

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