We Are Nation: A Game Without Borders

Team Indigenous Rising v Jewish Roller Derby

Team Indigenous138

Jewish Roller Derby 119

Roller derby is about empowerment, but too often, it’s also about privilege. The We Are Nation: A Game Without Borders matchup between Team Indigenous Rising and Jewish Roller Derby on Day 2 of the 2019 International WFTDA Championships Montréal was to “showcase, support, and honor” these two teams without borders and to celebrate these resilient, strong, and athletic people. In addition, these teams want to bring awareness to those with privilege and encourage them to reflect and understand why it is important, and how to be an informed and active ally.

Roller derby is an expensive sport and takes a lot of money and resources to be able to buy equipment and get to practices and games. When you come from privilege it’s just easier to achieve that empowerment. But when you come from a culture that has been marginalized and discriminated against—when other cultures weren’t trying to outright eradicate it—empowerment through roller derby is harder to achieve.

In a moving ceremony led by the captains of Team Indigenous prior to the We Are Nation game Jumpy McGee said this was “an opportunity to showcase two very diverse teams, who descend from peoples who have been forcibly removed from their homelands and continue to build lives and communities despite their situation.”

What is intergenerational trauma and how does it affect people? 

Let’s take a moment to understand how intergenerational trauma works (i.e. trauma that is genetically passed through generations). When your grandmother was pregnant with your mother, you were an egg inside of your mother for approximately the last 3 months of the pregnancy. The stressors that your grandmother experienced affected her brain and her body which in turn affected your mother, and you.

Now, go back generations. Think of the extreme cultural and personal stressors of concentration camps and pogroms; of forced migration, starvation; from having children stolen from families—it is impossible to list every atrocity, this is a very short list. Add to that individual traumas of rape, assault, poverty, starvation, etc. Trauma can be written into the genetic code of a family, a culture, a people.

How does that affect them today? It increases the risk for physical and mental health issues; it increases the risk of being in poverty, addiction. It can impact someone’s ability to learn and therefore get a good education and make a better income. Add to that the experience of racism, discrimination, and erasure along the way, and it is a difficult cycle to break.

That being said, resilience is a strong foundation that is woven throughout the generations of Indigenous and Jewish people. And the game between Team Indigenous Rising and Jewish Roller Derby is all about resilience. It’s a recognition of all of the traumas the Indigenous People and Jewish People have suffered over centuries and that “We Are Still Here” and “We Will Outlive Them.” After every struggle and hardship, these cultures and these people will remain and thrive in their culture and in the world.

The We Are Nation game is about recognizing, honoring, and valuing these strong, resilient, amazing roller derby skaters, coaches, and community members.

The Game

And then there was roller derby. Jewish Roller Derby, which celebrated its first anniversary this weekend, has 19 skaters from 18 different derby leagues. Team Indigenous Rising, three years old, has 17 skaters from 17 different derby leagues. Neither team practices together regularly. If it wasn’t for the internet, this wouldn’t be able to happen. Both teams mentioned the use of Skype, Facebook groups, and other online resources to share videos, learn strategy and figure out how to make teamwork happen on the track.

These two teams played each other earlier this year at RollerCon 2019, where Team Indigenous Rising won the 30-minute game 67-54. It was an experience these skaters wanted to repeat. Today, Team Indigenous Rising took the win again, 138-119, but the game was so close for the majority of the 60 minutes that until the last few jams, it could have been anyone’s game.

You could see how both teams bonded, grew, and developed through the game. The beginning was a bit disjointed. The jams were shorter, with smaller scores each jam. Halfway through the first period the score was 18-17. Both teams focused on the basics: defense. But you could also see each team gel as the jams went on. As the first period progressed, Jewish Roller Derby began to pull ahead thanks in part to a 23-point jam by Vanek which gave them a 34-61 lead with 2:40 left in the period. The period ended with Jewish Roller Derby in the lead 42-65.

The second period brought some different roller derby. Each team made excellent use of their first period and halftime meeting. Both came back to the track with a broader focus and tighter teamwork. It paid off for Team Indigenous Rising in the end, but they never had a comfortable lead and up to the last few jams, either team could have won.

As the final whistles blew the score was higher on the Team Indigenous Rising side, but as both lines hugged on the track it was clear that everyone was a winner.

This game was pure roller derby as it was meant to be. Good camaraderie, teamwork, and a great sporting attitude. High fives, “great jobs,” and recognition of well played derby both within the teams and between the teams.


So now what? What does this mean and what can we do as allies?

There are specific things that can be done to support these teams. You can buy merch such as a T-shirt or a patch, or you can donate money to their team. But being an ally is so much more than wearing their T-shirt, or making their logo your social media profile picture. It’s about learning what a microagression is and making sure you aren’t engaging in them. It’s calling out racist language and behaviors that are against, well, anyone.

It’s about learning about the atrocities committed against Indigenous and Jewish people and making your life decisions with that in mind. You like dream catchers? Or the Star of David? Great, but recognize what they are, the culture it comes from, and honor those people. Learn about the land you live on. Which people lived there in the beginning and how was that land stolen from them? This is heavy stuff, but too often, when we live in privilege, we pretend or ignore those things and that continues oppression, racism, and discrimination. Learn and understand the power structures that exist in our culture and countries and how it continues to denigrate, diminish, and erase those Indigenous and Jewish people.

When we embrace diversity we are a better people for it. It’s uncomfortable. We like to hang with people like us; or like to think “everyone is the same” but we aren’t and that’s something beautiful we need to celebrate and grow with, no matter the discomfort.

This game was an opportunity for strong, resilient, athletic, Jewish and Indigenous people to play a game they love with people they love. And for the rest of us, it was the opportunity to watch and be a part of something amazing. It’s up to us to keep it going.

More About the Teams

Team Indigenous

Team Indigenous

We are Team Indigenous Rising. We are the Original Nations of the Americas. We are Indigenous athletes, coaching staff, and volunteers. The mission and purpose of Team Indigenous Roller Derby is to unite the Indigenous roller derby community, representing the proud, once-borderless communities in our Ancestral Lands on these continents. Our Ancestral Home is known by many names: Turtle Island, Abya Yala, Pachamama, and thousands more. We are committed to strengthening the sport of flat track roller derby, the athletes who play it, and the Indigenous peoples throughout the hemisphere by representing First Nations people in events around the globe in 2019.

WE ARE NATION: A GAME WITHOUT BORDERS Roster
Name
#
Pronunciation & Identification Notes
Indigneous Nation
Home League
Kris Myass
1116
She/her
Cree
Calgary Roller Derby
Ash Tray
420
she/her
Chippewa, Ottawa
Flint Roller Derby
SOgnar
4
(SO-nar) she/her
Dry Creek Pomo, Polosa Village
The Guild of Troublemakers
Bazinga
314
she/her
Red River Metis
Calgary Roller Derby
Karma
614
she/her
Red Lake Chippewa
Brew City Bruisers
Blackrock Bruiser
198
she/her
Cayuga/Seneca
Queen City Roller Derby
Jumpy McGee
491
she/her
Dine (Navajo)
Maine Roller Derby
BeastMode
100
She/her
Chumash
Clarksville Roller Derby
Niketah
47
(nih-KEE-tah) She/her
Tlingit (KLEEN-kit)
Rage City Roller Derby
Mush.It.Real.Good
1492
(MUSH it real good) she/her
Navajo
Gold Coast Derby Girls
Dolly Benally
5
She/her/hers
Dine (Navajo)
Durango Roller Girls
Raven
64
they/them
Saddle Lake Cree Nation
Toronto Roller Derby
Margaret Bleed
1935
she/her
Taino
SoCal Roller Derby
Skates in Circles
57
she/her
Oglala Lakota
Old Capital City Roller Derby
Painkiller Jane
12
she/her
Georgian Bay Metis (MAY-tee)
Orangeville Roller Girls
Danger Girl ALT
8
She/her
Lakota
Black Hills Wildfire
Jet Pack ALT
907
She/her
Athabascan
Hellgate Roller Derby
DARYL
Coach
She/her
Taos Pueblo
Gotham Roller Derby
SiouxperNova
Coach
She/her
Yankton Sioux
Madison Roller Derby
Krispy
Bench
She/her
Cherokee
Rebel Town Rollers
Windigo
Manager
She/her
Wiikwemikoong First Nation (WEE-kwaym-KOHNG)
Brewcity Bruisers Roller Derby

Jewish Roller Derby

Jewish Roller DerbyJewish Roller Derby/רולר דרבי יהודי unites the skaters, officials, and coaches of the Jewish diaspora as one team and one nation. We provide space within the international derby community for the displaced, the exiled, the stateless, the descendants of Judah. This team showcases the athleticism and the heart of the Jewish people through our dedication to the sport and community of flat track roller derby as well as our commitment to tikkun olam, or healing the world.  Jewish Roller Derby skates in solidarity with our sibling borderless nations and marginalized groups across the world.

WE ARE NATION: A GAME WITHOUT BORDERS Roster
Name
#
Pronunciation & Identification Notes
Home League
Gritz
185
She/her
Carolina Wrecking Balls
Malka Shayna (מלכה שיינה)
97
(mal-KA shay-NA, captain) She/her
Rose City Rollers
(שרה מאר)/Sarah Marie
23
She/her
Storm City Roller Derby
Shoshananaguns
9
She/her
Madison Roller Derby
Bruiseberry Pie
31
She/her
Vancouver Murder
Kosher Assault (כשר אסאולט)
322
She/her
Rat City Roller Derby
Oz Farkas
2012
(Oz Far-KAZ) She/her
DC Rollergirls
Goldman
021
She/her
Montreal Roller Derby
(נִילִי) / Nili
360
(Nee-Lee, captain) She/her
San Diego Derby United
Vanek
12
(VAN-ek) She/her
Toronto Roller Derby
Knox
9999
She/her
Santa Cruz Roller Derby
(לאה רחל)/Leah Rachel
44
She/her
Windy City Rollers
Belka Pigeon
1
She/her
Beach Cities Roller Derby
Fineman
90
She/her
Gotham Roller Derby
(לילו וסטיצ׳ז) / Lilo & Stitches
626
She/her
Rocky Mountain Rollergirls
Pleah (פּלאה)
141
(play-UH) She/her
Jacksonville Roller Derby
Novisk
811
She/her
Atlanta Roller Derby
Peach Clobber
350
She/her
Big Easy Rollergirls
COHN!!!
18
She/her
Rose City Rollers
Levy
Coach
(Lee-vee, Morgan Levy) She/her
Rose City Rollers
Blackman
Coach
(Rachel Blackman) She/her
Denver Roller Derby
קאַווע / Coffee
Coach
(Strong Female Character/Staci Akselrod) She/her
Gotham Roller Derby