Cassidy Gray, an alpine skier on the Canadian National Team, is taking a piece of the Columbia Valley on her journey this season by redesigning her helmet to represent local traditional Indigenous art. Trinda Cote, member of the Shuswap Band, created the design with her heart and soul, with each aspect intentionally representing a different part of Indigenous land and culture.
The helmet boasts a salmon, representative of the salmon that populate the Columbia River, and the salmon’s dorsal fin is symbolic of the Mount Nelson mountain range. Cote coloured the salmon orange to represent ‘Every Child Matters,’ reminding Canada of the 215 children that were found buried at the site of Kamloops Residential School earlier this year.
“She brought so much perspective from an Indigenous standpoint, and from a local standpoint, and I am so incredibly proud to be wearing one of her pieces on my head,” says Gray.
Growing up on the land of the Secwépemc, Ktunaxa, and Niitsitapi people, Gray values traditional Indigenous culture, and holds a huge amount of respect for the bands and the land itself. She wanted to showcase that on a national scale.
“One of the reasons I wanted to specifically ask someone from the Band to do it, is because I believe that the community is built on the Indigenous roots,” Gray says. “As someone who is a settler on the land, it is important to represent the core pieces and foundation of the amazing place we get to call home.”
Gray has been skiing since she was about six-years-old— competitively for nearly the same amount of time. This will be her first season fully in the World Cup. Although the goal of having Cote design her helmet was to “show people where I am from, and how proud I am to be from the valley.” She also wanted to use the opportunity to bring recognition to the Indigenous peoples.
Gray stresses how important it is, “for all Canadians to recognize that our entire country once belonged entirely to the Indigenous people.” Although Truth and Reconciliation Day is great in raising awareness to the horrors Indigenous people lived through, and are still healing from today, she says that one day is not nearly enough. “Their culture should be appreciated and recognized more in schools, social settings, and just in everyday life. Making a conscious effort to realize where we went wrong, and what we can do today to support Indigenous people and their culture.”
Haley Grinder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer