A universal Indigenous Roller Derby team is set to "decolonize" the sport in the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup.
Team Indigenous, which consists of 20 athletes from Indigenous communities in South America, Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and other regions, is made up of women from a wide array of professions including astronomers, lawyers, postal workers, heavy machine operators, mothers, grandmothers and wives, uniting them in a love of the sport and a "borderless" Indigenous women congregation.
"We are Team Indigenous. We are the First Nations and Indigenous people of our Ancestral Lands, linked globally through the sport of roller derby. We are Indigenous athletes, coaching staff, and volunteers," Team Indigenous said on their Facebook page.
"The mission of the Team Indigenous Roller Derby is to unite the Indigenous roller derby community, representing the proud, once-borderless communities, in our Ancestral lands on these continents. Our ancestral homes are known by many names: Turtle Island, Abya Yala, Pachamama, Aoetearoa, and thousands more.
We are committed to strengthening the sport of flat track roller derby, the athletes who play it and the Indigenous peoples throughout the world by representing the First Nations, and the Indigenous peoples in the Roller Derby World Cup," the team added highlighting their purpose.
Melissa Waggoner, 38, a co-founder of the collective, is a roller derby professional, who belongs to the Diné Indigenous community in North America, and has represented Team USA.
Waggoner decided to form Team Indigenous after receiving messages and emails from people urging her to do so.
Team Indigenous members want to eliminate the racial imbalances in the sport known for being dominated by white middle-class athletes. Roller Derby is most popular in the West, with white people making up a majority of the players in the United States and Europe.
The sport, as it is, can be racially divisive, since the its gear can be expensive to begin with, as the skates alone can cost up to US$500, with additional expenses of the protective wear and team membership.
"Decolonization" is essential, Waggoner told the New York Times in an interview Tuesday. "When I talk about decolonizing roller derby, I talk about recognizing that opportunity and access exist in roller derby only for white privileged American and European people."
Sasheen Wesley, 33, also one of the members of the collective, who found camaraderie, told the newspaper, "They just get me. I don’t have to explain myself ... Team Indigenous is a team of equals."
“Even though we’re all from different nations, we all have this shared history of being indigenous people,” said Laura Martinez, 34, a two-spirited person (a term used to refer to Native American people who do not subscribe to the traditional gender binaries of male or female). "It’s a real honor."
Some of the members also expressed interest in bringing in more Indigenous people to the game. "Next World Cup, I’m coming with more Aonikenk people," María Noelia Paez, 34, of the Qom tribe, one of the largest Indigenous groups in Argentina, and the Aonikenk tribe of Patagonia, said in the same interview.
Victoria Rose Moore, 45, of the Tlingit people in Alaska, also said she had plans to start a team back home to "ensure that our children and community are going to be reached so they know where they come from."
Another Indigenous professional, Charee Peters, 29, an astronomer, whose a member of the Sioux tribe said: "My nickname is Siouxper Nova because I’m a member of the Sioux tribe, we are the star people, and supernova is one of the most energetic phenomena in the universe."
"Like me on the track," she said.
The founder Waggoner told the crowd at a hall-packed event that her team skates "to honor all those women who never found this strong, revolutionary sport, as their lives were cut short."