Oak Park High School debuts Truth & Reconciliation football jerseys

Winnipeg’s own Oak Park High School is known for producing football greats, like the Bombers’ Nic Demski and Brady Oliveira. But it also has the highest percentage of high school Indigenous students in the Pembina Trails school division.

One football player created a new jersey, blending Indigenous teachings and the values of being an Oak Park Raider.

“I did these jerseys to inspire Indigenous youth, after I’m gone from this school,” said Dawson Andrews, who is in his senior year of Oak Park football.

Dawson Andrews, senior year with the Oak Park High School Raiders. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

He says it was important to represent different Indigenous nations on the jerseys. What means a lot to him and his teammates, are the symbols of the red and orange hand prints on the jersey’s shoulders.

“Wearing this jersey, going out to that football field is going to feel amazing because my father before me, he went to residential school. He was a residential school survivor, my father. it’s going feel amazing feeling that I can wear a colour that he couldn’t wear,” he explained.

“I like to think of it as, we’re carrying their problems on our back. We’re always with them, that we’re always honouring and that we’re not forgetting. Because we’ll never forget about what’s going on in Canada.”

Teammate Rocco Linklater and his family helped with the design, translating the word “Raider” into Cree. He says to him, the jerseys are a symbol for Indigenous people breaking the cycle and stereotype of addictions.

Rocco Linklater, grade 11 with the Oak Park High School Raiders. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“I’m hoping everyone really likes the jerseys and, like what Dawson said earlier. People talk about them. I hope people get interested,” said Linklater.

The jersey will make its debut Friday on the Oak Park football field, just in time for National Truth and Reconciliation day on Saturday. Andrews says regardless of the outcome, it’s a win for him, his team, and the community.

“Some kids my age don’t have outlets like I do. My outlet is football. I just want everybody to know there’s an outlet for everything. Even if you don’t feel like you have no one there with you, you don’t have nothing there to support you. There is something there for you.”

Oak Park is due to face Vincent Massey on Friday. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

The high school is famous for producing many athletes, including several NFL players. (Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

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