Elks-Bombers game to feature historic broadcast

For the first time in Canadian Football League history, Friday’s game between the Edmonton Elks and Winnipeg Blue Bombers will be broadcast in Cree.

The Elks announced earlier this month they’d be partnering with Windspeaker Media to provide the broadcast on nêhiyawêwin (Cree) radio.

“This will be an exciting and historic broadcast as it will allow the Cree language to be broadcast on an entire network to football fans across Alberta,” said Bert Crowfoot, the founder and CEO of the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society.

While it might be historic, doing the first-ever broadcast has some challenges.

“The challenge is English is noun based. nêhiyawêwin — or Cree as you call it — is verb based. So a lot of things are going to have to be descriptive,” said Wayne Jackson, who will be doing play-by-play for the game on Windspeaker radio.

“There are things that already exist like inches and yards, but then brand-new things like ‘line of scrimmage.’ How do we say that?”

A ‘significant’ moment for the Edmonton Elks

The broadcast of the game aligns with the Elks’ Indigenous Celebration game, which will have O’ Canada performed in Cree and English and will feature an Indigenous performance for the halftime show.

“We have a platform as a community-owned team, and this, I think, is a very important step for our organization in how we interact with the Indigenous community and another opportunity to show that football is for everybody,” explained Evan Daum, marketing and communications, Edmonton Elks.

“To be a part of something that’s historic like this – the first Indigenous-language game in CFL history – is significant for us and we’re really pleased and really excited to be partnering with Windspeaker on it.”

This isn’t the first time Windspeaker Media has made history in sports broadcasting. In 2020, the Calgary Hitmen teamed up with Windspeaker Media to provide a broadcast of one of their games in Blackfoot.

READ MORE: Hitmen game to be broadcast in Blackfoot

Crowfoot said at the time, “People are so proud to be able to hear their own language on the air.”

It’s a statement that is echoed now by Jackson.

“This is a way of regaining our culture, regaining our language – which is intertwined with who we are. So when we speak it, we’re telling the world in essence this is who we are,” Jackson explained.

“Growing up, the odd time you heard it was actually in a movie. It was like, ‘yeah they’re speaking our language.’ But to hear it in everyday events is really monumental.”

It will also not be the first time the Cree language will be highlighted in Edmonton sports.

In 2020, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear honoured his Indigenous heritage by displaying his jersey name in Cree syllabics for a Battle of Alberta game following the NHL’s COVID-19 pause.

READ MORE: Oiler to honour Cree heritage in Battle of Alberta exhibition

Jackson, from Goodfish Lake First Nation in northeastern Alberta, will be joined by Darcy Houle, from Goodfish Lake First Nation and Edwin Thomas, from Saulteaux First Nation, Saskatchewan, for the game, which will be broadcast across Alberta on Windspeaker’s stations CFWE (98.5 FM in Edmonton) and CJWE (88.1 FM in Calgary).

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