Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby’s new helmet design, created by Swedish artist David Gunnarson, came under fire this week on accusations of cultural appropriation. (David Gunnarson, Instagram)

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby’s new helmet design, created by Swedish artist David Gunnarson, came under fire this week on accusations of cultural appropriation. (David Gunnarson, Instagram)

Williams Lake First Nation Chief supports Canucks amid cultural appropriation controversy

“That’s my team. That’s who I cheer for, and I’ve always taken great pride in that logo.”

The chief of the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) is throwing his support behind the Vancouver Canucks after the NHL team faced accusations of cultural appropriation surrounding its logo and a goaltender’s mask this week.

WLFN Chief Willie Sellars, a longtime goaltender himself with the Central Interior Hockey League’s Williams Lake Stampeders, said as a First Nations leader and as a hockey fan he is supportive of the Canucks’ trademarked, Coast Salish-nation inspired orca logo and of the team.

“As a First Nations leader I couldn’t be more proud how much the Vancouver Canucks are celebrating First Nations culture in the NHL,” Sellars said. “They have a pretty cool logo in my opinion and, as far as I know, it was developed with the permission of the First Nation in that territory.

“That’s my team. That’s who I cheer for, and I’ve always taken great pride in that logo. I’m 100 per cent OK if it stays the way it is, but if they’re going to change it there should be local First Nations involved.”

Sellars said he’s seen improvement across the country on how reconciliation is being approached, and said he thinks the City of Vancouver has done an exceptional job.

“Obviously, it’s not perfect but, we’re trending in the right direction and that’s what we like to see as First Nations leaders,” he said. “(Reconciliation is) happening and that’s what we have to acknowledge.”

Sean Carleton, a historian and Indigenous Studies scholar at the University of Manitoba, opened up the discussion on Twitter recently, noting sports teams in Cleveland, Washington and Edmonton have shed their names and logos after they were deemed inappropriate.

Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby sparked the backlash earlier this week after unveiling his new goalie mask, created by Swedish artist David Gunnarson, which builds on the Coast Salish legend of the Thunderbird.

“The huge Thunderbird is flying over the mountains to the ocean to catch orcas with his huge claws … A totally perfect story to create on a Canucks mask,” Gunnarson said in his original Instagram unveiling of the Indigenous-inspired artwork, which has since been deleted.

Sellars said he loves the idea of Indigenous culture being celebrated in professional sports, however, said he would have liked to see West Coast Indigenous culture honoured more by working with a local, Indigenous artist from the area.

“I love the mask, by the way, but you need to follow and honour the people whose traditional territory you are in,” he said.

Holtby has since issued a public apology noting he didn’t mean to offend anyone.

“It was definitely not my intent and I definitely learned a valuable lesson through this all and will make sure I’m better moving forward and do the thing that help this community the most,” Holtby said in an interview with CTV Vancouver.

“The goal was and still is to include Indigenous artist and try and pick their brain to see how they would design a mask to best represent the history and culture around this area especially because it’s so vast.”



greg.sabatino@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

First NationshockeyNHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
253 new COVID-19 cases, 4 more deaths in Interior Health over the weekend

More than 1,000 cases in the region remain active

A Trail man has a lucky tin for a keepsake after it saved him from a stabbing last week. File photo
RCMP: Small tin saved Trail man from stabbing

The man was uninjured thanks to a tin in his jacket

School District 8 is asking the education ministry to stop making the Foundation Skills Assessment data public. File photo
Kootenay Lake School District requests education ministry make annual student assessments private

The district is concerned the data is being misused by the Fraser Institute

Nelson has begun 2021 with a small rise in COVID-19 cases. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Ten new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

The cases were reported for the week of Jan. 3 to 9

Zoey Uniat is now three months old. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar baby with rare disorder progressing towards coming home

Fundraiser for Zoey Uniat has raised more than $50,000

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

Sunnybank
COVID-19 related deaths at Oliver, West Kelowna and Vernon senior care homes

Sunnybank, Heritage Retirement Residence and Noric House recorded deaths over the weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A female prisoner sent Langford police officers a thank-you card after she spent days in their custody. (Twitter/West Shore RCMP)
Woman gives Victoria-area jail 4.5-star review in handwritten card to police after arrest

‘We don’t often get thank you cards from people who stay with us, but this was sure nice to see’: RCMP

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Chantel Moore, 26, was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in the early morning of June 4, 2020, in Edmundston, N.B. (Facebook)
Frustrated family denied access to B.C. Indigenous woman’s police shooting report

Independent investigation into B.C. woman’s fatal shooting in New Brunswick filed to Crown

Delta Police Constable Jason Martens and Dezi, a nine-year-old German Shepherd that recently retired after 10 years with Delta Police. (Photo submitted)
Dezi, a Delta police dog, retires on a high note after decade of service

Nine-year-old German Shepherd now fights over toys instead of chasing down bad guys

Nurses collect samples from a patient in a COVID suspect room in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
5 British Columbians under 20 years old battled COVID-19 in ICU in recent weeks

Overall hospitalizations have fallen but young people battling the virus in hospital has increased

Canada released proposed regulations Jan. 2 for the fisheries minister to maintain Canada’s major fish stocks at sustainable levels and recover those at risk. (File photo)
New laws would cement DFO accountability to depleted fish stocks

Three B.C. salmon stocks first in line for priority attention under proposed regulations

Most Read