Jeff Menard, of the Anishinaabe Pine Creek First Nation in Manitoba, Canada, has been making “Got Land? Thank an Indian” sweatshirts and t-shirts since 2012 and before this week had sold about 1,000.
But since 13-year-old Tenelle Starr talked her off-reserve school’s officials into allowing her to keep wearing her magenta hoodie bearing those words, Menard’s phone hasn’t stopped ringing, he told CBC News.
"Orders are just coming here left, right and center," Menard told the Canadian television network. "I'm being flooded with calls."
He and Tenelle are members of different First Nation bands that are under Treaty 4, which was signed in 1874 by 13 separate Saulteaux and Cree Nations, according to the Pine Creek First Nation website. The treaty currently covers 36 First Nations throughout most of Southern Saskatchewan and parts of southern Alberta and western Manitoba, Pine Creek said.
Tenelle, an eighth-grader from Star Blanket Cree Nation who attends middle school in Balcarres, Saskatchewan, ran into flack from education officials who deemed her new Christmas present racist. They told her to remove it, and when she returned wearing it again a few days later, tried to make her turn it inside out.
Meetings between school officials, her mother and reserve leaders ironed out the problem, and Tenelle was allowed to wear the shirt to school. She has been sporting it proudly ever since, and her story has made waves across Canada.
For his part, Menard told CBC News, he had never intended to make money from shirt sales. In fact all he wants is a thank you—and to see Prime Minister Stephen Harper in one of his hoodies, he told McLean’s.
Menard initially spotted the words on a hoodie in the U.S., he told McLean’s, and started selling them in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. His line also includes bibs and t-shirts.
His main goal, he said, was to get the historically accurate message out there. The shirt has certainly done that.
"The reason why I started this was to bring awareness to the Canadian natives and to unite our people and make them proud of who we are," he told CBC News. "I'm not in it for the money."