EDMONTON — Zach Whitecloud, a Vegas Golden Knights defenseman and the first Indigenous NHL player from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, said on Tuesday that he forgave an ESPN anchor for an “obviously insensitive” joke about his last name.
John Anderson on Monday night questioned “what kind of name” Whitecloud was, and called it “a great name if you’re a toilet paper.”
Whitecloud, speaking to the media in a Rogers Place hallway, gave an answer: “I’m proud of my culture. I’m proud of where I come from, where I was raised, who I was raised by. I carry my grandfather’s last name, and nothing makes me more proud than to be able to do that.”
Undrafted and from a reservation community of about 1,000 in Manitoba, Whitecloud, 26, has spoken in the past about his heritage, his family and issues facing Indigenous people and First Nations hockey players.
His grandfather — the one whose name he carries — was a survivor of Canada’s residential school program for First Nations people, Whitecloud said in a 2022 Instagram post, as are his grandmother and uncle. Peter Whitecloud was Chief of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation from 1968-70 and a longtime councillor, according to the SVDN website. He served in World War II.
A 4,000-page Canadian governmental report in 2021 detailed mistreatment at the schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children, and at least 4,100 deaths. Canada had more than 130 boarding schools, run mainly by churches with the last closing in 1996. For decades, most Indigenous children in Canada were taken from their families and forced into the schools. Many never returned.
The commission was initially created in response to the discovery of a mass grave on the former grounds of a school in British Columbia containing the remains of 215 children.
“I believe it is important for us all to educate ourselves on the history of the residential school program,” Whitecloud wrote in part in a June 2021 Instagram post. “We need to accept the uncomfortable fact that the schools are a significant part of our past and we need to acknowledge that they have caused significant trauma for thousands of Indigenous families. Many people believe that these programs and the unfair treatment towards indigenous people is ancient history, however that is not the case. These are problems that are in the here and now and still exist today.”
Anderson on Tuesday released an apology: “This is totally on me and I sincerely apologize to Zach, the Golden Knights, their fans and everyone else for what I said. It’s my job to be prepared and know the backgrounds of the players and I blew it. I will be reaching out to the team to personally apologize and hope to have the opportunity to speak to Zack (sic) as well.”
An ESPN spokesperson, asked if there was any larger response to the remarks, referred The Athletic to Anderson’s statement.
Whitecloud said he made first…
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