In a rare display of reconciliation, a new captain with a Burlington air cadet squadron took the initiative to seek guidance from Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council over its questionable logo and nickname.
Captain Stephen Young, of the 715 Mohawk Squadron with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, said when he took over as captain, he noticed the name and crest and felt, in light of nationwide efforts toward peace and reconciliation, he should seek the guidance of people from the community on the appropriateness of the logo.
The logo features what appears to be an Indigenous chief, with a feathered headpiece, set against a backdrop of a Canadian maple leaf.
Young also asked if using the word “Mohawk” was appropriate.
“I wanted to renew that permission or at least discuss if the community was comfortable with the use of that name,” he said.
If they retain that name, he said, they’d like to maintain some sort of connection with the community, which could mean things like educational visits to Six Nations for its sqaudron.
Young said he believed the crest was problematic. He said it was drawn by a Six Nations person but times change.
“I want to make sure we don’t have a crest that’s disrespectful in any way and that we honour any connections we have.”
In terms of the name, he said, “For context, I believe the name is a reference to Joseph Brant. I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to be respectful.”
Joseph Brant is a legendary Mohawk Chief whose homestread is at a prominent intersection in Burlington overlooking Lake Ontario.
“Thanks for the approach and knowing where to go and who to talk to,” Coun. Nathan Wright told him during last week’s general council meeting. “It’s certainly appreciated.”
Coun. Wendy Johnson said Six Nations has many nations, with Mohawk being just one of them. She also pointed out that there are other Mohawk nations in Ontario and that just asking Six Nations wouldn’t be inclusive.
She suggested he speak with the Six Nations Veterans Association for their input.
“When I look at the logo…there’s a lot going on in that logo,” she said. “It’s not only the headpiece, the picture itself, you’ve got the Canada flag behind it, the crown on it…colonial history. Talking about reconciliation, there’s a bit of a contradiction going on there.”
She said it was beyond her to okay the use of the name and she suggested meeting with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council, as well.
Coun. Helen Miller said she had no problem with the name.
“If you look in the phonebook, there’s all kinds of things named with Mohawk. Mohawk Mechanical, Mohawk this, Mohawk that, so I don’t have any problem with the name. I’m not so sure about the crest. I couldn’t see the significance of the crest. Was that supposed to be a Mohawk Chief? I don’t know what council approved it.”
She said none of the councils she’s sat on in the past 18 years had approved it that she could remember.
“I don’t have a problem with the name but I do have a bit of questions about the crest. When I seen it, I was kind of taken aback a bit. I was trying to think what it had to do with cadets. It’s gotta be a Mohawk Chief. I’m assuming that’s what it is. I don’t know what that has to do with cadets. It’s up to a lot of people. I don’t support the crest.”
She said it was up to them if they wanted to take it to the community or Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council.
Young said when he started his role, his biggest concern was the crest.
“I look at the crest and I feel like it is not respectful. I feel like it’s a PR issue, mostly, for us. The centre of the crest we can change.”
However, the outside, he said, is a fixed frame.
“I think there may be an issue with the name. I want to know where I can appropriately go to fix these issues.”
Coun. Wright also suggested a visit with Six Nations veterans.
“As both Helen and Wendy pointed out, there should be others weighing in on this. I really like the suggestion of utilizing the First Nation veterans that are out there because they’ve lived and breathed all of this. We just want to make sure all perspectives are covered going forward.”
In terms of the image of an Indigenous Chief in the crest, Young guessed that it came from the fact Burlington has a strong affinity for legendary Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, whose homestead is in a prominent location in the city.
He said he was hesitant to change it without consultation from Indigenous groups.
“I think the crest is problematic. The name, I don’t know what to say.”
Most councillors agreed that the crest was not appropriate.