SASKATOON — Ashley Callingbull is looking to use her influence as the new ambassador for the Saskatchewan Rush and Blades and use sports as another way of educating non-Indigenous people about First Nations culture and issues that affect them.
Callingbull, a Cree First Nations woman from the Enoch Cree Nation on Treaty Six territory in Alberta, was recently named as the Blades and Rush organization’s newest ambassador.
“As an ambassador for the Rush, I think it is important to educate non-Indigenous people, because they can be our allies. All they have to do is take the time to educate themselves, listen and learn to understand where Indigenous peoples are coming from,” said Callingbull.
“For me, being in this position as the Blades and Rush’s representative allows me to use my voice not only to educate people but to also bring people together, because the whole thing about sports is community. Sports brings everyone together, regardless of who you are, it is for everyone.”
The Saskatoon Blades are part of the Eastern Division in the Western Hockey League. At the same time, the Rush, formerly the Edmonton Rush, is a professional lacrosse team that plays in the Western Division of the National Lacrosse League.
Both teams are under the Priestner Sports Corp. as the Rush moved from Edmonton to Saskatoon after owner Bruce Urban sold the franchise to the Priestner family.
Callinbull added that she has ideas she will share with the organization. She says she will use her skills as a dancer, model and actor as well as a First Nation activist and motivational speaker in North America.
“I’m going to be presenting a lot of ideas and other things since I have a wide variety of what I can do. So, everyone needs to stay tuned for that. I want to present different options to the Rush and Blades on how to serve the community,” Callingbull said.
“I would like to do more community outreach programs where I can just connect with Indigenous communities around and within Saskatoon. Just to bring more people to the games, make them feel more involved and give them more opportunities.”
She said that she was humbled by the trust given to her by the Priestner Sports group of being the ambassador to the Rush and Blades.
“It means a lot to me. It is important because representation matters. It’s so rare to see an Indigenous person in this position. It’s really exciting for me because a lot of Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan can relate to having an Indigenous person, or an Indigenous couple, representing the organization,” said Callingbull.
“Everyone around me was, honestly, surprised and at the same time excited because they are a big organization. I’ve had a lot of success lately and this adding to it, just makes everything more exciting. The move to Saskatoon is exciting because I’m not alone in this journey as I will have my husband, Wacey [Rabbit], with me. I’m excited to get to work.”