EDMONTON, AB - Oilers defenceman Ethan Bear will honour his Indigenous heritage during tonight's Battle of Alberta exhibition game by displaying his jersey name bar in Cree syllabics.
The 23-year-old from Ochapowace Nation in southern Saskatchewan said he will be donning the name bar proudly on behalf of all past, present and future Indigenous hockey players.
"It will be an honour to wear this jersey tonight," Bear 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."
Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild praised the young blueliner, the Oilers and the NHL for the historic gesture.
"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," Chief Littlechild said.
"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."