Sioux Valley Dakota Nation has joined the ranks of other Indigenous communities in Canada to host the Stanley Cup.
Sioux Valley member and NHL championship winner Zach Whitecloud hoisted the cup in his home community Wednesday surrounded by hundreds of people, some of which travelled great lengths to get a peek at the silver trophy.
Lauren McNabb drove from Calgary to see the cup. “It’s important to support all of our First Nations athletes and I’m just really excited that another Dakota player is making history. So yeah, just really excited to celebrate these moments,” she told Global News.
Whitecloud’s dad and Sioux Valley council member, Tim, said bringing the cup home is a full-circle moment for his son.
“To be able to come home and at such an enormous occasion, for him to come home with the Stanley Cup and present it to you people who have supported him 100 per cent,” he told the crowd at the celebration in the community’s arbour.
Whitecloud, who spent much of his childhood in the Western Manitoba reserve, was signed as a free agent by the Las Vegas Golden Knights in 2018. He went on to become the second defenseman in 22 years and 11th in the NHL modern era to score the game-winning goal in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final.
Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone said during the Stanley Cup Finals the community pride was palpable, with memorabilia like t-shirts and posters adorning homes and public places.
The first nation hosted a watch party of the championship game and the turnout was big, Bone said.
“The hype and the excitement, it was pretty awesome,” she remarked.
The chief said there’s also been an immense sense of pride watching Whitecloud’s career in recent years.
“He’s been a great inspiration to not only our youth, but all Indigenous people, right? And not only with the Stanley Cup win, even before that. Just having him playing in the NHL was something great to see for our young people,” she said.
“(It’s) really setting an example that anything is possible and that if you work hard, you can achieve anything, right?”
Carlin Mckay, a Sioux Valley member who came to see the champion and his prize, called Whitecloud a role model.
“This is awesome. Proud to be here and very excited.”
The Stanley Cup began its championship tour in Amos, Quebec, the hometown of Golden Knights right wing Nic Roy, and will continue into the next month.
— with files from Marney Blunt