First CFL official from a treaty territory inducted into the Indigenous sports hall of fame

Brian Chrupalo becomes the third ref with legal status under Indian Act to be put in the hall.

Football season may be over, but there are still plenty of storylines from this past season to celebrate, on both sides of the medicine line.

One accomplishment is from the Canadian Football League, and it involves an official with legal status under the Indian Act being inducted into an Indigenous Hall of Fame.

Brian Chrupalo, from Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba, became just the third official to be inducted into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame, and the first football official.

“It’s a huge honour, even just to be nominated for something like that. To actually receive the recognition for the work that’s been done I think it’s pretty cool,” Chrupalo said.

Chrupalo was a bit surprised to hear he was going to be inducted, especially since he still currently officiates.

“Are you sure you’re talking to the right person?” Chrupalo asked when he got the call, “and he was very adamant and it was the result of some of the work so it was a very humbling experience to be recognized for that.”

Chrupalo has been a CFL official for 17 years and has worked in five different Grey Cups.

This past season marked a first for him where, during the Truth and Reconciliation Game in September of 2022 between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Saskatchewan Roughriders, he announced the penalties in the game in both Ojibwe and English.

“I was talking to my friends and said it’s kind of cool to be doing this in front of 30,000 people to announce these penalties until they reminded me that it was on TV and there were a couple of million people watching so that amped the pressure up a little bit,” Chrupalo said with a laugh. “All the way through they were super supportive, how can we help what can we do, and there was nothing that anybody could help me with.

“I had my little card with the penalties and I got to do the first penalty, a holding penalty and right after that it was just ok, let’s get back to football, that part is done and it was fantastic.”

Chrupalo said the idea started during a conversation with a group of officials, and they were talking about NHL games being broadcast in the Cree language.

“We said ‘well that’d be kind of neat if we could do that in Ojibwe,’ I’ve been taking lessons and I didn’t think anything would happen with it and the league said ‘yeah do it,’” he said.

“I had to study for a while and seek out some knowledge speakers and confirm some things and then I went ahead and did it.”

When he’s not holding players accountable on the football field, he’s holding the Winnipeg community accountable as a Staff Sergeant for the Winnipeg Police Service.

He also serves the greater community in his role on the board of directors for the Bear Clan in Winnipeg. Part of his work was vital in making sure those less fortunate had food when the pandemic hit.

Chrupalo confirmed he would again be working the Truth and Reconciliation Game in Winnipeg this season and plans on announcing the penalties in Ojibwe once again.

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