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North American Indigenous Soccer: Visibility, Intergenerational Healing, and Schelangen in Global Football


This study addresses the relationship between intergenerational trauma of ongoing United States and Canadian colonialism as it impacts Native American and Aboriginal First Nations Peoples and ways global football contributes practices of intergenerational healing. I argue that Indigenous soccer operates as a mechanism of decolonization and re-membering for Indigenous Peoples who inherit colonial traumas. Indigenous soccer directly challenges hegemonic sports culture as typically marked by Indian mascotry and Native invisibility. While cultural historians have shown how American sports are used as colonial technologies of assimilation, violent gendering, labor and militarism, the story of Indigenous soccer has not been studied. As a Lummi footballer, I utilize Native voices from Coast Salish Tribes of Washington State and British Columbia, Mohawk and Cree First Nations Canada, Southwest tribes from New Mexico Pueblos and Navajo Nation, and Kiowa Territories in Oklahoma to illustrate Indigenous soccer identities and schelangen, or way of life in Lummi. As soccer in North America challenges hegemonic ideologies of nationalism, instrumental Indigenous footballers are demanding visibility, like the late Canadian Hall of Fame First Nations Aboriginal footballer Snuneymuxw Harry Xulsimalt Manson and U.S. World Cup participant Kiowa Native Chris Bau Daigh Wondolowski. Using the theoretical framework of Tulalip scholar Stephanie Fryberg's “theory of invisibility,” I tell and analyze Indigenous soccer stories as evidence that Indigenous visibility, in soccer or otherwise, provides intergenerational healing. I begin to fill the gap in the sports culture and U.S.-Canada colonialism discourse, with the goal of making Indigenous soccer locally accessible as an instrument of decolonial healing for generations of Indigenous North American Peoples.

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