The message on this sweatshirt set off intense discussions across Canada.
Photo Credit: Sherri Starr

“Thank an Indian” T-shirt sparks heated commentary


News reports of a teenager who work a T-shirt with a message to school have sparked animated discussions on social media about race and Aboriginal relations in Canada.

Tenelle Starr, 13, wore a hoodie proclaiming “Got Land? Thank an Indian” to her school in the western province of Saskatchewan. School officials told her to change the shirt and not wear it again. But, after meeting with Starr and leaders of her Aboriginal reserve, they changed their minds.

Tenelle Starr says she does not think her ‘Got Land?’ sweatshirt is offensive. It did get people talking. © CBC

‘It’s about treaties and land rights’

Starr said her sweatshirt speaks about First Nations treaties and land rights. Starting in 1701 the British crown entered into several different treaties with Aboriginal bands to encourage peaceful relations. Some of those treaties involved bands ceding land for treaty rights to such things as farming equipment and animals, annual payments, ammunition, clothing and certain rights to hunt & fish. Treaty rights are still being negotiated in the western province of British Columbia.

Huge, sometimes racist, response

The original news item about Starr on the public broadcaster’s website garnered close to 100,000 views and attracted around 2,000 comments. Her own Facebook page was swamped with comments, some of them abusive, some of them supportive.  Starr was advised to take down her page by the national police, the RCMP, which is investigating some of the posts.

A family friend and member of Starr’s band council, Sheldon Poitras says the teen has lots of support from her family and community and that she is “okay, you know. She is sticking to her guns. It hardens her resolve to the whole thing. She isn’t backing down by any means.”

The man who makes the T-shirts says his phone has been ringing off the hook for orders.

Posted in Indigenous, Politics, Society

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4 comments on ““Thank an Indian” T-shirt sparks heated commentary
  1. notalib says:

    And he should also make some shirts with ” if you live in a house thank the white man” and “if you get a free education thank the white man” and “if you get free medical service thank the white man” and “if you get free welfare thank the white man” and ” if you don’t have to pay tax thank the white man”. In the first place you didn’t own this land, your ancestors were emigrants to this land just like the white man you didn’t spring up out of the ground, and even if you did own it you’ve been paid about 7 times for it already. If you think you should get some of the resources well pick up a stick and start digging for it instead of sitting around with your hand out saying gimmie gimmie .

    • Benalbanach says:

      “In the beginning we had the land and they had the bibles. Now they have the land and we have the bibles ” The white man built the schools ? And so he should !

    • Chris says:

      If the white man never came to North America and took what wasnt his and destroyed the way of life of the Aboriginal Peoples, than the white man would not have to pay for such things.

  2. Brian Barker says:

    It’s a child’s reaction to what she sees as an injustice. Good for her, she’s found a voice and is using it! The treatment of the natives in Canada has been horrible. I don’t blame her one bit for speaking out.