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

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

A black bear tries to get at a bird feeder at a home near Williams Lake. (Laura Ulrich photo)
Managing bear attractants a top priority in B.C. for 2021: Conservation Officer Service

Garbage, fruit trees, bird feeders, compost and livestock are common attractants for bears

B.C. Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon. (B.C. Cattlemen’s Association photo)
COVID, BSE, water access and private land rights: B.C. Cattlemen’s general manager weighs in

Kevin Boon said positive aspect of pandemic is more people interested in where their food comes from

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

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

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Most Read