Mason Fine can tell you about his place on this Saskatchewan Roughriders team.
But on this National Indigenous People’s Day, he’s especially proud of his background.
Fine is a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
Growing up, Fine says he was well-supported by his community. It was when he entered college at the University of North Texas that he first realized how important his Indigenous identity was.
“In college, I became aware of how unique and how awesome it was and that developed a passion into being a role model and being someone in the community who can represent the state of Texas and Oklahoma and my hometown and Cherokee Nation,” Fine said.
“That’s when I became aware of how much of an impact I wanted to make in the future.”
During his time in college, Fine received an overwhelming amount of support from the Cherokee Nation back in Oklahoma. They made and sold shirts, covered him in newspapers and praised him throughout social media.
“They really brought more awareness towards the Indigenous community and culture which was awesome.”
Fine says those college experiences prepared him for his time in Saskatchewan.
“Coming up here, that kind of prepared me because it’s just a huge honour and I take it with a big responsibility to do the best I can to represent my tribe Cherokee Nation,” Fine said.
And his role on the Roughriders has only gotten bigger. Fine says he’s been able to work with the team to raise awareness and help Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan, something that is very important to him.
“Working with the marketing team, working with people up in the business to keep bringing that awareness and bringing some things to light and really telling my story to keep moving in that right direction of reconciling.”
Fine says he’d like to see the CFL continue to move in a positive direction while working with Indigenous populations. He’ll continue to do his part while he can, which includes community reach-outs, talking to children in Indigenous communities or just simply being a positive role model.
“In football, you just want kids to know that they can dream and play at a professional level and give them more opportunities for them to be successful,” Fine said.
“A lot of kids don’t get opportunities so just keep moving in that direction we’re moving in and give the Indigenous population opportunities.”
The Roughriders previously have made a commitment to truth and reconciliation,, which includes providing education on Indigenous Riders and athletes in Saskatchewan and ensuring long-term Indigenous athlete development, among other policies.
Riders coach Craig Dickenson says Fine has been leading the charge in many initiatives. He noted a dinner this month at which a number of young Indigenous football players from northern Saskatchewan visited. Among the players who spoke to the young athletes was Fine.
“He has spoken openly about the fact that he’s got some Indigenous heritage and he’s very proud of it and we’re very proud of him for being a part of this team and representing Rider Nation,” Dickenson said.
Fine says he plans to get into tribal politics after his time in football is up. But for now, he wants to focus on educating people and helping Indigenous communities to be successful.
“Being a role model, especially in Saskatchewan, I take that with a huge honour and I want to give people that inspiration to know that they can do it,” Fine said.