Wednesday was a special day for the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba. Cheers, laughter and the Stanley Cup were on full display as Zach Whitecloud had his day with the cup and brought it home to share with his community.
Hundreds gathered at the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation powwow arbour to see Lord Stanley’s trophy and show their support for Whitecloud.
“We’re very proud to be from Sioux Valley, he put us on the map,” said Rochelle Blacksmith at the celebration.
“It’s so neat to hear every once in a while, on NHL, you hear Sioux Valley Dakota Nation right, it was just loud and I love that,” said Shelley Blacksmith.
One common theme among those in attendance was the sense of pride in the community.
“Definitely a great sense of community pride and it’s been there always in supporting him when he first started playing with the Vegas Golden Knights but I think it’s a lot more now from the Stanley Cup and we’re hosting the watch parties and all the excitement leading up to today there’s been so much community pride in bringing together the community in such a good way,” said Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone.
For Shelley Blacksmith, Whitecloud’s presence in the community is more than just getting a chance to see him and the trophy.
“Unity, we’ve never had unity in such a long time. He doesn’t even know what his gift is to us. He thinks bringing back the Stanley Cup, it’s more than that, it’s unity and all the young people, there’s lots of young parents here just enjoying the day and they don’t even care about the weather.”
Much like who he is on the ice – Whitecloud’s speech to those in attendance was simple and effective.
“Thank you everyone for taking time to come and celebrate a dream of mine since I was a little kid. Everyone travel safe, be safe, be well, and again travel safe home when you head that direction,” Whitecloud said.
Chief Bone believes having a role model like Whitecloud is nothing but positive for the youth.
“Definitely an inspiration to the younger kids to be able to see an Indigenous role model playing in the NHL and also winning the Stanley Cup and being able to bring that to a First Nation community is definitely such a great accomplishment and the younger people look up to him as a role model and I think it inspires them to do better and to excel in their sports and their education and to live that good life and that anything is possible and that their dreams come true,” Chief Bone said.
“It’s a good time for our community to come together, we faced some difficult challenges within our community, we face them as a community and we take care of one another and support one another through good and bad and I think that’s what community is all about and helping one another and caring for another and having that compassion as Dakota people.”