‘Got Land? Thank an Indian!’ T-shirt maker defends his work

Jeff Menard created the sweatshirt that sparked controversy in a Saskatchewan school


Jeff Menard knows first hand the colonial angst his line of T-shirts can invoke.

The message — “Got Land? Thank an Indian!” — has prompted unsolicited complaints about tax exemptions for Aboriginal people, for example. Menard, a member of Pine Creek First Nation, north of Dauphin, Man., says he welcomes the dialogue.

However, he was upset to learn that school officials instructed a 13-year-old girl not to wear one of his sweaters. “I couldn’t believe they would do this to this little girl, they would keep her oppressed,” said Menard, 37, who woke up to hundreds of emails this morning after CBC aired news of the story.

Grade 8 student Tenelle Star, a member of the Star Blanket First Nation, told the CBC that her “Got Land?” sweatshirt led to complaints at her school in Balcarres, Saskatchewan. “They told me to remove my sweater because it was offending other people.”

“I was very, very upset,” he said of learning of the incident. “I was going to get in my car and drive over there and defend this girl because she is young.”

Menard says the sweatshirts, T-shirts and baby bibs celebrate Aboriginal peoples’ “rich heritage,” but also point to history.

“When the Europeans came over, we took care of them. Thanksgiving was actually the first welfare line,” said Menard. “Somewhere along the line the Europeans figured they can conquer us and take over the land and all that. In retrospect, I just want a thank you.”

Menard first saw the phrase on a hoodie in the U.S. He set up shop in 2012 on First Nations land at the Red Sun Smoke Shop and Gas Bar in Winnipeg, Man., and Turning The Tide in Saskatoon, Sask., but stresses  he doesn’t care about turning a profit. “I just want everybody to wear the hoodie or T-shirt, because it’s a true statement.”

His immediate goal is to get people to say thank you. “That would satisfy my appetite for now.”

There is one person, however, that he’d like to see in one of his shirts. “By any chance do you know the size of Prime Minister Stephen Harper? What size hoodie he might want to wear?”

The school and First Nations officials have since resolved the matter, and Star will be free to wear her sweatshirt, CBC reported.

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‘Got Land? Thank an Indian!’ T-shirt maker defends his work

  1. so should people start wearing sweaters reading…got money?..thank the taxpayers…

    • Only if they want to appear like they bought into the stereotypes & are prejudiced, John.

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    • There is a prevailing myth that Canada’s more than 600 First Nations and native communities live off of money — subsidies — from the Canadian government. This myth, though it is loudly proclaimed and widely believed, is remarkable for its boldness; widely accessible, verifiable facts show that the opposite is true.

      • Yes, because everyone knows that the 10 BILLION or more dollars allocated to First Nations is just a pittance compared to the taxes First Nations people pay to the Government.
        There are some very well run, and prosperous reserves in Canada, but that is not the norm. As has been mentioned on numerous occassions, and on numerous forums….the main problem with the First Nations is it’s poor leadership. Attawapiskat is a fine example of what happens when you elect someone who is both corrupt, AND incompetent to handle millions of dollars in funding.
        You want a better life?
        Elect a better Chief. …prefereably someone who knows at least how to balance the checkbook….and not STEAL from you.
        And ditch the INDIAN ACT while we’re at it……..

        • James, wrong. Attawapiskat is a great example of Conservative Reform Alliance Party. Crime Minister Harper quietly reimbursed the community after it was proven that the appointment of the Third Party Manager was illegal and an act of intimidation on the part of the Harpos.
          Want incompetence, you need look no further than the Harper Gov. 3 billion missing from the procurement strategy. 2.5 million for ads to a non existent employment strategy. etc, etc, etc…

  2. Well he’s about to make a fortune after the school gave him all this free publicity! LOL

  3. As someone who owns and farms land, I don’t mind giving you a thank you. Thank you.

    Sorry about the Canadian Wheat Board refusing to allow people who lived on reserves the right to sell grain in the export market up until the 1970’s, thus destroying your agricultural industry.

    • I bet not many canadians know about that among many many other issues. The tax break doesnt even come close to paying back wat was stolen from 1st nations that but thank you for your honesty….

  4. My ancestors came to Canada from Ireland in 1793 without a pot to pee in, as they say. I’m now 80 years old and seven generations later. My children and grand children represent the 8th and 9th generation. I make this statement to sort of set the stage that not ALL immigrants have that red neck colonial mindset. Because I for one totally support the statement, “Got Land? Thank an Indian!” Canadians, and especially new Canadians, really need to understand our history and what signing Treaty was all about. For those who use the line that it’s in the past and has nothing to do with them, try using that rationale to the Supreme Court of Canada. I predict that over the next twenty years Canadians are going to get a huge wake up call regarding the honouring of treaty, particularly with resource development on traditional First Nation lands.
    The best advice I can give to those who disagree is to read our history and make personal contact with First Nation people wherever you may reside. Because they are NOT going away in spite of our terrible and tragic attempt to destroy their language and culture. They are an integral part of the Canadian story.

    • Totally agree.

    • A breath of fresh air in our national dialogue, you are! My Hubby & I read your comment & want to thank YOU. He is a Band member of the ACFN (the Band that Neil Young is doing the “Honour the Treaties” tour for.) At 80 years old, your thinking hasn’t calcified & your eloquent comment is much appreciated by both of us!

    • They have become the most racist abusers on the continent, now stop perpetuating their racist attitudes. I owe them nothing and neither do you or your grandkids. How very racist of you to try to say otherwise. There is NO SUCH THING as them owning any kind of “traditional lands” so get an education on this subject. You sound sucked into their lies.

      • Must have gotten all that info from your Dad. sad. OIL SANDS FLOCCULANTS LTD.

    • Thankyou

    • What part of the Treaties haven’t the Gov’t honoured,I keep hearing the retoric but never the details. I have read the Treaties and they all read the same . The land was Ceded EXCEPT reserve land, no need to consult, and hunting and fishing on said land is as per the rules set down by the Gov’t.

    • GREAT comment; I think you are a GREAT man. Best to you in your 81st year and beyond.

  5. Thank You Jeff! Our Ancestor’s never meant for us to live below the poverty level while the newcomers reap the benefits of this land Kanata!

    • knock it off with those lies. Your ancestors kept you stuck in poverty on those reserves, NO ONE ELSE DID. And you have to stop referring to Canadians as “newcomers”, settlers, or any term other than CANADIANS. ALL you natives are settlers too, so quit your racist bullying!

      • Who is lying? According to that Racist ‘rule of law’ the Indian Act, we were forbidden to leave the internment camps (reserves) from 1870 till 1960. almost 100 years.

      • Michele….

        While I believe a great many of the problems faced by first nations today are self inflicted (bad leadership)……..even I admit they have had a rough ride of it.
        You can take ANY group of people and stick them on a reserve in the middle of nowhere, and you’ll have the same problems.
        Take 500 blonde haired, blue eyed folks…stick them up North without roads, jobs, or hope….make them dependent upon welfare…….and after 8 or 9 generations, you’d have the same problems. Question now…is how to fix it?
        My only complaint, is that many in the first nations “Leadership” would rather complain about the past instead of fixing problems for future generations of First nations kids. All that some Chiefs seem to demand is more money…as if that is the cure all. (Hello Thersa Spence)
        It is a terrible waste of human resources. The aboriginal population is growing much faster than the rest of the Canadian population…and yet we’re still bringing in hundreds of thousands of people from other countries.
        wouldn’t it be better to sort this out now…..so we can have actual Canadians working in productive jobs, and freeing them from dependency?
        We have some very competent Chiefs (Chief Louie) but they are rare. We need more like him, and fewer of the “Theresa spence’s”
        A phoney hunger strike doesn’t help anyone……but a job would.

    • If the billions of dollars that went to Aboriginal Affairs wasn’t gobbled up by the corrupt Chief’s and elders no Indian would be below the poverty level.

  6. It does not matter how the native Indians were treated by Europeans , they just want to forget it ,Harper would rather cry for Holocaust then learn to respect Indians , his goal is to please the holocaust enthusiasts by building more holocaust museums then building houses for Indians and they tell the new immigrants to adapt to the Canadian values of watching hockey , how many Europeans have adapted to the ways of Indians? they have definitely acquired their lands , abused them in residential schools, killed them, destroy their culture and values ,It is not the T-shirts but the truth that hurts. Harper does not need a hoody he needs a full time job after retirement like Tony Blair.

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      • Can you believe it? the hollow rants of privileged white kids. Yes, get rid of that Racist Indian Act!!! Once you do that, then come back and complain.

      • Michele tittler you sound like a real racist, you should be ashamed of yourself…. You know that saying don’t judge unless you walk a mile in there shoes…try it… And you have a great day…. :) not every BOOK you read. Is FICTIONAL…..

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    • This comment was deleted.

      • The fact that 2 people gave you a thumb’s up says it all…

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  9. I’ve read the treaty…..have you? Please, would someone enlighten me as to the treaty violation(s) that have allegedly occurred because after several readings of the actual original treaty – I can’t find it. Please provide references/links. I did however find multiple violations on the part of the Indians. READ THE TREATY PEOPLE, instead of taking a has-been celebrity at his word.

  10. I don’t think First Nations agreed to cultural genocide, to having their children ripped from their homes and families to attend residential schools where their culture and their language was beaten out of them during the day, and raped out of them during the night, by those “godly white men and women” who had to “teach the savages the civilized way to live”.

    The tradition of war and occupation has always been “annihilate or assimilate.” History, after all, IS written by the victor. I think some of the hostility I’ve seen on this thread is fear and anger at the realization that those once thought “vanquished” are, instead, rising up and demanding respect and notice.

    We white people don’t like it when we are forced to admit historical atrocities; and I think many are simply shocked to learn that the bleached-white version of history, spoon-fed to us during our public-school indoctrination might not be the only version of the truth out there.

    • Perhaps you, several centuries later can pass judgement, but at the time well meaning people felt the best way to bring Indians into the new civilization was to educate them…catch22 really…like the reserves…if they forced them into schooling they were taking away their language and culture, if they didn’t force them into schooling they would be blamed for not including them and letting them continue as “savages” and be left behind the rest of society. The vast majority of the “abuse” was strapping, like what also occured in non-native schools, Sexual abuse was rare but if you listen to the “Indian Industry” everyone was sexually abused, it has a tendancy of upping the $$$ The cultural genocide you elude to was certainly less of a problem than the tribal wars, or starvation or malnutrition these tribes suffered thru.

      • The last residential school closed in 1998, the law was not repealed till June 2010. So wrongo, It lasted for several centuries. I would not call the first Indian Agent (Scott) well meaning. WE shall see how much ‘abuse’ when the gov releases the documents.

  11. Got Democracy and Civilization? Thank a White man.

    • however, White governments prior to colonizing North America was Kings and Queens; so there’s your roots

    • Canadian Democracy was modelled after the Iroquois confederation. Got Democracy? Thank an Iroquois. And I’ll remind you anonymous commentor Sepp that the nations that were rolled over through colonization had very highly organized civilizations prior to contact with Europeans. Learn your history.

      • The Canadian form of democracy was modeled on the British forms of the time. Yes, the Iroquois had a form of democracy, as did many of the native groups, but it was not the model for modern Canadian democracy. It is also true that forms of democracy exist all over the globe with varying levels of success.

  12. Its unfortunate that there is still so much ignorance in this land. The backlash from a shirt that simply states a historical fact is amazing. People hide their racism behind justifications and rationalizations that supposedly support their ignorant point of views. If this so-called country called “canada” was truly the peaceful supportive country it tries to tout as its international self-image then there would be less ignorant comments and more solidarity with us Indigenous people. Learn the history of this continent before opening your mouths to show your ignorance. And, no, you probably won’t like what you learn, but deal with it, because if you can’t, then there will never be an opportunity to walk forward hand in hand between our nation’s. Hate and resentment is all that will ensue, bred by the misconceptions that non-Indigenous people would rather believe because the truth scares them and threatens their very existence as “Canadian citizens”. Sad. And all you hate-groups out there please stop threatening my neice Tenelle Starr. She doesn’t stand alone, and has all the support of her Nation and relatives from across Turtle Island. Its because of the hate and threats recieved that she’s had to deactivate her facebook account.

    • “The backlash from a shirt that simply states a historical fact is amazing”

      Ok, I’ll bite. What historical fact are you talking about?

      • that this land is colonized; maybe you missed that hour grade school.

      • that this land is colonized, maybe you missed that hour of teaching in grade school; that’s the priority of the history of canada in the canadian public school system

        • It’s called progress and Globalization. Do you actually think Aboriginals could have remained in the stone age? I’m thinking everyone should be thankful it was the British/French rather than the Mongolians or Ottoman’s

    • Here’s more historical facts. Got free education?..Thank a Canadian!. Got free health care?…Thank a Canadian!, Got free housing? Thank a Canadian ! Got a car, SUV, TV, cable,phone,internet? Thank a Canadian !

    • Hi, I live in SK and I admire your niece: she shows courage and confidence at a young age. The Tshirt has started a conversation that needs to be had right across Canada. I would like to see the Minister of Education here step up and meet with her, and maybe the principal of her school hold an assembly to discuss what the shirt says, and why it is important — why do those words make people uncomfortable, etc. Turn this stupid handling of the situation into something powerful and productive — a teachable moment for all. And if you are her aunt, get hold of the Neil Young tour — he’s in Regina tomorrow night for a concert — and I bet that girl will get to attend the concert and that story will be shared far and wide. This is an opportunity to keep this conversation going, and I hope it goes right across the nation. Best regards to Tenelle, a brave young girl.

    • Sherrie,
      Before laying the blame for the state of First Nations folks on the white man….perhaps you should focus a little closer to home.
      The Government provides BILLIONS of dollars to first nations folks….but it tends to be eaten up by corrupt and incompetent Chiefs.
      I actually don’t have a problem with the T-shirt……free speech, and all that, and it DOES get the point across.
      If you want to fix First nations problems…couple suggestions.
      1. Stop electing incompetent people to be your Chief.
      2. Stop electing corrupt people to be your Chief
      3. Focus on the future…stop complaining about the past. The past cannot be changed, but the future can.
      4. Education….education….education. And by that, I don’t mean teaching your kids about “Turtle Island”…teach them about business, finance, medicine, law…etc. Something that will see them able to get a good job and provide a valuable service to ALL Canadians.
      5. Resources: If a company wants to develop resources on your land, let them…and derive the benefits wherever possible. Demand they respect the environment, but don’t burn the equipment of a company that can provide jobs and wealth to your people.
      6. Have aboriginal people READ WHAT THE TREATIES ACTUALLY SAY…as opposed to just demanding they be respected. The treaties are pretty clear in that first nations people (for the most part) completely surrendered title to the land, including the resources containted therin.
      7. Stop teaching your kids that they can never succeed becaue the white man won’t let them. Teach them that failure is NOT an option.
      8. First nations folks need to have the right to private property on Reserves. No one looks after a home that doesn’t belong to them. Pride of ownership should extend to dwellings…not just land.
      9. Pressure whatever Government is in power to recognize First nations as founding members of Canada…the first founders. Currently, it is only the French and English who get the real credit.
      10. DUMP THE INDIAN ACT………..
      Lastly, face the reality that CANADA is a country…and you are a Canadian. That won’t change, no matter how many roadblocks you put up, or how many police cars you burn.
      Instead of giving funding to Chiefs and council…..the Government should give the money directly to first nations people, who will then be TAXED by the reserve to provide services. In that way, people who actually live on the reserve will demand the money be spent wisely, as opposed to being piszed away on zamboni’s when the houses are falling down. It would also stop “leaders” like Theresa Spence from buying $80,000 vehicles or going on expensive trips….when young mothers have to live in a shack with a tarp for a roof.
      If you want to fix the problems that ail first nations on Reserves…….start on reserves. Both of my sisters are married to first nations men, and the list above comes mainly from my discussions with them. They had the sense to get the hell out and make it on their own.

  13. Unfortunately, Harper is too “fat-headed” for any hoodie.

  14. First Nation people have endured so much pain and untold stories of abuse and hatred, all for the lands. Some to this day are still suffering and a lot of them have passed away in such awful ways and are still going missing too. I sure would love to get a sweater.

  15. I think the reason that the backhairs go up with some white people, is that they don’t understand exactly ‘how’ they managed to get all this land from First Nations people. First Nations people in Canada only have between 2 and 3 % of what they owned prior to colonization. The wealth that Canada has extracted and continues to extract through our resources far outweighs the piddly treaty promises. And let’s not forget that treaty Indians DO PAY TAXES. Personally, I’d like to ensure my tax dollar goes towards education of ignorant Joe Normal. They don’t realize the oppression, racism and violence that has occurred through this process of getting indigenous land. We’re talking genocide, germ warfare, residential schools, and not to mention new legislation which keeps on trying to erase the treaties. (Omnibus Bills) White people need to be real and educate themselves on their history as colonizers in our land. But right now, so many white people are ignorant and are then able to act racist, because for so long this history, which benefited white people and continues to marginalize Native people is still occurring. I think that’s why things like Ed Foundations 335 in University is so important, Anti-racist, anti-oppressive classes, and Native studies and treaty education. This information should be mandatory for all Canadians (not just Native people). Not knowing this history just does a disservice to positive race relations in our country. I’d like to thank those white people who have decided that weren’t going to be a cog in the machine and have decided to learn more and to comment positively below. Hey hey.

  16. I am so proud of this young lady. She stood up for her beliefs and used the oppression that had been used against her to empower herself. She is inspirational to me.

  17. Our “white” neighbours are never going to admit their wrongful actions they have committed against us

  18. If the truth offends people perhaps they should look inside their own souls for the problem.