The Kam River Fighting Walleye hosted their first-ever Orange Wave Night to celebrate Indigenous culture and raise money for post-secondary scholarships
Trenton Morriseau says games like the Orange Wave Night are special, but he knows healing — and growth — when it comes Indigenous relations in Canada is a process.
Morrisseau’s junior hockey team — the Kam River Fighting Walleye of the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) — hosted the inaugural Orange Wave Night on March 12 at Norwest Arena in Oliver Paipoonge, Ont., which celebrated Indigenous culture and traditions.
Members of the Fighting Walleye wore one-time orange design jerseys, sponsored by Jason Thompson and his company, Warrior Supplies and Engineering. The colour orange has become a symbol of the Indigenous movement. According to the team, the mission is to “celebrate diversity, promote cultural awareness and support the Indigenous community through sport.”
The game-worn jerseys were auctioned off and the money raised – more than $10,000 – went towards post-secondary scholarships for graduating Indigenous players.
Nineteen-year-old Morriseau, who was born and raised in Fort William First Nation, says the hard work by everyone in the Walleye organization and the sponsors to put this event together will go a long way.
“It’s really important to celebrate our culture with our community of Oliver Paipoonge,” he says. “You know, it’s just the step in the right direction for reconciliation and healing for Aboriginal people.”
While Morriseau is in his second year with the Walleye, a franchise started in 2020, this campaign was his first full one with the club after a large part of the 2020-21 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Morriseau is a graduate of the Thunder Bay Kings AAA program who finished the 2021-22 season ninth in SIJHL scoring with 21 goals and 29 assists.
He admits he would be lying if he didn’t encounter prejudice while moving up the hockey ladder.
“At some point, every Indigenous person is going to experience some kind of racism,” says the 5-foot-10 forward. “It’s our job to try and educate people and you know, tell them like what’s right. And it’s not their fault, what they hear at home from their parents and stuff either, right? So lots of times, they’re just good kids, and they’re just kind of repeating what they hear at home. You know what I mean? So it’s just it’s our job to educate them. We just have to keep that in mind.”
The opening ceremony of Orange Wave Night included an Indigenous drum group featuring Ron Kanutski, the Fort William First Nations Little NHL Team and special dignitaries within the community.
Dignitaries consisted of Aaron Kakapetum (senior commercial account manager of Indigenous banking, RBC); Trevor Iserhoff (director of inclusion and diversity, SIJHL); Colin Campbell (co-owner, Kam River Fighting Walleye); Jason Thompson (owner and founder, Warrior Supplies and Engineering); Chief Peter Collins (Fort William First Nation); Grand Chief Derek Fox (Nishnawbe First Nation); and Beatrice Hynnes (Ojibway anthem singer).
The Fighting Walleye capped off the celebratory evening with a win, coming from behind to down the visiting Dryden Ice Dogs 3-2 thanks to a game-winner from Morriseau with just 3:45 left.