A Yellowknife-based company called Rebel Welding gained the attention of several people on social media Tuesday and Wednesday as the name on a company truck appears to depict a rebel flag.
Yellowknife resident Riley Somers made the initial post on the Yellowknife Rants and Raves 2.0 (Rated E) group, pointing out that the company’s lettering, on the back of a truck parked on 48 Street, depicted the flag.
“Correct me if I’m wrong. But that’s the Confederate flag yes?” she posted. “The hate symbol? The one made so white people can keep their ‘rights’ to slaves?”
NNSL Media reached out to Somers on Wednesday but she declined to comment further, stating that she didn’t want to go beyond the statement on Facebook.
Somers’ post received an explosion of threads, responses, back-and-forth banter and personal insults that started Tuesday evening and carried on into Wednesday night. Topics ranged from the taste of the business owner using the symbol, to the definition of racism, to the foundational causes of the American Civil War (1861-65).
The call-out comes at a time when some are demanding the removal of Confederate flags, monuments and symbols from the public sphere following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May.
Rebel Welding is owned by Brian Sundberg who – as it was revealed in the Facebook thread – also owns a vehicle resembling the orange General Lee stunt car from the television show the Dukes of Hazzard. The roof of that car sported a Confederate flag during the show’s height of popularity as a CBS action-comedy from 1979 to 1985.
Earlier this month, the original General Lee car from the show – named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee – made national headlines in the United States after some called for its removal from public display at the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois.
Speaking by phone on Wednesday, Sundberg was largely in good humour about the situation. He said the company was never started as a “racially motivated” name but came from a nickname he developed over the years as a worker and union member who was known for pushing back and being outspoken at the mines. It was for that reason he named his company ‘Rebel,’ he said.
“The stuff about the lady yesterday (Tuesday) with the photo of my truck and people chiming in on the rant and rave, I don’t do Facebook or Twitter,” Sundberg said. “I didn’t respond and decided to let it go because I don’t want to get into a pissing contest.
“I’ve also told my daughters to let it be because what they want is a response and I’m not going to give it to them.”
Sundberg points out that the flag depicted on the truck isn’t a Confederate flag, either.
“It is not a rebel flag, which is 13 stars. Mine has five stars, although it looks like it.”
Sundberg said he wants the issue to die down but he received several texts and emails overnight Tuesday – including from a brother in Victoria –after the Facebook threads continued.
His company has been in business for about five years, but he has been a longtime journeyman welder in the area, including at local mines, and has lived in the Yellowknife region since 1970.
As for his General Lee car, it does have a Confederate flag on the roof and it is something he has thought about changing. He said the car is not permanently painted – it’s a vinyl wrap job that was done on his 2010 Dodge Challenger last year. The idea had been to complement his Rebel Welding business with the job on the car, but he was also a fan of the Dukes of Hazzard.
He spent $3,200 to have the job done with Edmonton-based Alberta Car Wrap and up to this week, the response has mostly been positive, he said.
“I’ve driven it across Alberta and I’ve had all kinds of people give me the thumbs up. I parked it at the River Cree Casino one day and had …. 20 to 30 people stop and take pictures of it. There were no notes left or anything like that. ”
The reaction, outside of Facebook, has been the same in Yellowknife, where the reception from most people toward the car was in good fun, he said.
Asked what he thought about some saying that the depiction of the flag directly signifies he’s racist, he said he doesn’t buy it and while he isn’t Indigenous, his wife is.
“I’m the last guy to be a racist,” he said. “I live out at Dettah and I could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool with racist remarks I’ve heard for 20 years at the mines regarding Native people.”
Asked if he was worried about vandalism to the vehicle due to the reaction he has received, he admitted he was.
“Well, I am,” he said thoughtfully.
Sundberg said he wouldn’t recommend anyone else getting a similar vinyl wrap done.
“No,” he said, laughing. “Although it might take some of the heat off me.
“I guess the world was a different place a year ago.”