August 15, 2018


A Montreal-based clothing company is getting backlash for using the word “savage” this spring on some of its T-shirts and advertisements.

One of the owners of the Headrush brand is from the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, on the city’s South Shore, and people in that community say they’re shocked that someone from the reserve would use the term to generate sales.

”Û_Bronwyn Johns, who lives on the reserve, said “savage” is more than just a word.

“It’s a label, of us not being as good as them and us being garbage,” she told CBC.

Johns said she used to model for the company, but no more.

“My son has T-shirts and hats, and I can’t even put him in those clothes anymore, because I have teachers at his school that are boycotting the company.”

Steve Bonspiel, editor of the local paper the Eastern Door, said plenty more residents are just as upset.

“Here in Kahnawake, if you use that word, you’re not going to get a very pleasant response, let’s put it that way,” he said.

Headrush, which promotes its clothing at mixed-martial arts events, has responded to the criticism on its Facebook page.

It says the brand does not represent the community and it doesn’t believe the word savage describes anything in particular.

But Allan Downey, an indigenous studies professor at McGill University, said such imagery can have a negative impact on youth.

“They’re seeing that their culture is being portrayed in this very stereotypical fashion,” Downey said.

“And it doesn’t really reflect what their indigenous nations are. And really, this would not be acceptable for any other racialized group or minority group, and yet it is for indigenous people.”

Headrush did not respond to a request for comment.

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