A major event on the world sports stage is happening right now. 38 countries, from Australia to the United States to Romania are represented. We are not, however, talking about the Winter Olympics. The Roller Derby World Cup is going on right now in Manchester, in the United Kingdom.
And a Milwaukee woman is among those competing with the best in the world. Jennifer Bennett is not representing the United States, however. She skates for the newly minted Indigenous World Team, which includes women from Native American tribes in the United States, and Canadian First Nation and Metis athletes, as well. This team was created collaboratively by members of a Canadian tribe, the Kahnawake reserve, who suggested starting a First Nations team.
“It was important us to establish ourselves as nations within nations and our symbolic sovereignty,” says Bennett. “And saying we are here, we are a part of these countries, but we are also not a part of these countries. We have our own nations.”
Bennett’s passion for roller derby started when she got her first roller skates at 5 years old. Years later, Bennett competed in the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup, in Toronto, Ontario, as a member of Team Canada. Today she's a three-year veteran of Milwaukee's Brew City Bruisers.
She believes recent wider recognition of indigenous peoples in countries such as New Zealand and Canada speaks to the timeliness and urgency of her new team's creation.
But although support and representation are important in world competitions, Bennett says this is more than a symbolic team.
“It’s not just coming in and showing up, but coming in and kicking all of the butt – all of it. As much as we can.”
The 2018 Roller Derby World Cup, in Manchester, United Kingdom, runs through February 4th.