Did you ever play cowboys and Indians when you were younger? It’s a fun time, what with the war cries and the weaponry. At least before it was deemed an abhorrent, politically incorrect celebration of genocide. ("Cowboys and Aliens", in the other hand, is simply abhorrent. And boring.)
What would have really made it fun? Incorporating it into hockey. Which is what has happened for 31 years in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.
“The Battle of the Little Big Puck” is a game between locals from the Nekaneet First Nation and local “cowboys” from the ranching community.
Much like a “cops vs. firefighters” hockey game, it’s played for bragging rights between two proud factions. Unlike the cops and firefighters, the third period of these games features the First Nation members and the ranchers dressing in their respective regalia to play hockey.
From SWTV, here’s a glimpse of the February 25 game (the full costumed hockey stuff begins around 2:17 into the clip):
Yes, it’s cowboys and Indians on ice.
“You might be hard pressed to find a community anywhere in Canada where you could call it a Cowboy-Indian game and not offend anybody, where you could put two cultures against each other in a hockey game with bragging rights and everything else at stake and not turn it into a war. Both sides are very proud of that,” said Joe Braniff.
… It’s the third period and both teams have switched from their hockey gear to more traditional outfits – they’re dressed as cowboys and Indians. It’s a colorful mix of chaps and cowboy hats – feathers, face paint and beads. The Mountie has changed from the black and white referee jersey to his bright red coat and stetson. Dale Mosquito, now dressed in moose hide, said he’s proud to be a role model for a younger generation, including his own son.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to lace up the skates,” Mosquito said. “I’m really excited that they’re deciding and pursing this opportunity because I think they’ll carry it long into the future.”
At a time when Native American imagery in hockey couldn’t be more controversial, it’s surreal to watch these clips. But in the end, it’s all about ownership of heritage – and these two “warring” factions clearly know who they are, know where they’ve been and know how to honor that centuries-old relationship for the sake of charity.