Windsor Secondary in North Vancouver has collaborated with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation to change the name of its athletics team to better represent the school’s reconciliation efforts.
The Windsor Dukes’ new name, the Windsor Wolves, and new logo, a black ‘W’ flanked by two wolves drawn in traditional Coast Salish style, were unveiled at a ceremony on Tuesday.
“This brings us back to having a logo that actually belongs and recognizes the lands that we are on” said Windsor Secondary’s former vice-principal Julie Bertrand, who had helped lead the initiative until she left the school in March.
Bertrand said the change was initiated by two Grade 12 students, Kai Earl-Thomas and Koji Kasubuchi, who presented their idea to the Tsleil-Waututh Nation at a Chief and Council meeting around a year and a half ago, expressing their desire to move away from the colonial connotations of the former moniker.
“They wanted to move towards the wolf as an act of reconciliation, and they were met with a standing ovation from the Nation. They were super well received, the idea was very well supported,” said Bertrand.
Earl-Thomas said it was "wrong" that the former symbol of the school represented colonialism and the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, and it was important that all students "had the opportunity to find a sense of belonging and feel represented" at Windsor Secondary.
"One of our school’s key values as stated in the new, official school plan is to create a sense of belonging for all," he said.
"Our new, inclusive, and respectful mascot, the wolf, will continue our work towards Truth and Reconciliation and help create an inclusive environment for everyone."
Tsleil-Waututh Nation council member Dennis Thomas-Whonoak has been involved with the project since that first meeting, and said he was blown away to see “two young students have the heart and spirit to change a name and change a colonial mascot to be more reflective of this area’s cultural identity.”
As a Windsor Secondary alumni himself and a descendent of Windsor alumni, the school has a “special place in his heart,” he said. Thomas-Whonoak, who graduated in 2000, played football for the then Windsor Dukes at a time when Indigenous education within the school was scarce.
“Now for the school to have the Tsleil-Waututh Nation so positively reflected all these years later, that is something that is really going to empower our members,” he said.
Thomas-Whonoak said selecting the artist right for the job was a long and careful process, but in the end the “wonderful” artist Jonas Jones, a Tsleil-Waututh Nation carver, was the most fitting.
He praises Jonas’ design and the inclusion of the wolf, as it is significant to the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, he said – an important aspect of their origin story that deserves to take centre stage. Other Nation members have since offered their gratitude too. Jones, Earl-Thomas and Kasubuchi were blanketed during Tuesday’s ceremony.
It is not an overnight process, but Bertrand promises that, soon enough, all traces of the Duke will have been replaced by the Wolf. The school gym will be overhauled, the logo will be implemented throughout the school, and new jerseys will be created.
She said the logo and the name change demonstrates that students “can do big things” and can "create large change” and it shows, to those outside of the school, that Windsor Secondary has integrity.
“It shows that we at school talk about reconciliation, we talk about truth, we talk about the stories of Indigenous history. This provides an example of positive change in our school community, and that things are possible.”
As for the two trailblazing students, Earl-Thomas said it "feels amazing" to have left a legacy behind at the North Vancouver school.
"We are proud to have a positive lasting impact on Windsor Secondary, and we are proud of our community for embracing positive social change," he said.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.