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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

This Earth Day, Cowichan Valley residents are being asked to clean up where they are. (File photo)
Cowichan ‘Clean Where You Are’ campaign starts on Earth Day

Take a bag, one glove, long tongs, and go pick up!

City of Duncan considering an average 3.51 per cent tax increase for 2021. (File photo)
Duncan considers average 3.51% tax increase for 2021

Homeowners would see a $43 increase over last year

North Cowichan councillor Kate Marsh. (File photo)
North Cowichan postpones decision on cell tower placement

But cell tower policy may be developed soon

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

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

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read