Truth and Reconciliation and Women’s Rugby at STU
While “Green and Gold” are important colours to the young women who represent the St. Thomas Tommies on the rugby pitch, so is the colour orange.
It represents the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association squad’s commitment to truth and reconciliation with the Indigenous community.
The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be celebrated September 30. It’s also informally known as Orange T-Shirt Day.
The Tommies don’t have a game that day — they’re in Sackville to face the Mount Allison Mounties the next day, Sunday, October 1. But for every home game at the Grant-Harvey Field this season, beginning with their Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association home opener against the Holland College Hurricanes Sunday at 4:30 pm, they will dress the part.
The Tommies’ players will wear orange warmup shirts with a design on the front by local Indigenous artist Brandon Mitchell.
Coach Becca Baker feels the cause and the connection are important for her young team.
“We have Indigenous athletes on our team and it’s really important that we respect that community as much as we can, as much as possible,” she said.
Each player on the team receives a shirt to wear in the warmup, one of two they receive at the start of the year. The remainder, 70 in all, will be sold – $15 each – at home games or through the Tommies’ Instagram account @sturugby. There’s also a donation box set up at the entrance.
All the proceeds will be donated to “a truth and reconciliation effort within the Indigenous community,” Baker said.
“It’s some attempt toward truth and reconciliation on our part,” she said.
Savannah Simon is a third-year scrum half from Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation, a veteran and co-captain of a young Tommies’ team. She represented the province at the Canada Games in rugby last year.
Simon is one of five Indigenous members of the team, including assistant coach and equipment manager Hope Metallic and teammates Gracie Waye, Mackenzie Domres, and Vanessa Thompson.
The idea to align with truth and reconciliation came from the leadership group on last season’s team, said Baker.
As Fredericton and Indigenous groups gathered together to walk the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge in a healing walk last year, Baker and her coaching staff met with her team leaders to ask what they could do to offer support to the community.
The idea that emerged was the orange warm-up shirt.
“We thought ‘that’s amazing’” remembered Baker. “The players all wrote on the back of their shirts what truth and reconciliation meant. This year, we re-asked the question, and they asked if we could take it one step further...can we give something in return? And we said ‘absolutely.’”
“Truth and Reconciliation and rugby…combining them both has been amazing,” she said. The t-shirts “are a symbol of support,” Simon said.
“It means a lot.”