British Columbia

'The emotional connection was lost:' Terrace college dropping Thunderbird logo

In a bid to bring its brand up to date, Northwest Community College is changing its name and phasing out the Thunderbird logo.

The 48-year-old logo of coastal First Nations-styled Thunderbird made staff uncomfortable

The Thunderbird logo has been a part of the school's brand since 1969.

Northwest Community College in Terrace, B.C. is tossing out its 48-year-old Thunderbird logo because officials say it is no longer appropriate.

Staff at the institution said they became increasingly uncomfortable with the image of a coastal First Nations-styled Thunderbird.

"The emotional connection was lost simply because of its history. Moving away from the logo itself will be easy," said Ken Burt, the college's CEO. 
The logo will be phased out as the school undergoes a rebranding. (NWCC)

The logo was the winning design of a contest run nearly 50 years ago. At the time, the college hired the then-director of the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson to fine-tune the winning design into what became the school's own version of a Thunderbird.

The Thunderbird is a supernatural creature prominent in Pacific Coastal Indigenous myths. When the logo was first adopted, it was meant to illustrate the school's motto of "Giving Wings to Learning."

At the time, the college was called the B.C. Vocational School. It now has campuses in seven communities across the Northwest, including one in Haida Gwaii.

Inappropriate logo

The logo phase-out is part of an image overhaul for the college. It also plans to change its name.

Burt said someone raised the inappropriateness of the logo before recent re-branding efforts began but he didn't take it seriously at first.

"I have to admit, at the time I thought this doesn't make any sense, this is our symbol, it's been here forever," Burt told CBC Daybreak North host Carolina De Ryk.

Once the school began to look closer at it's overall brand, however, Burt said it didn't take long to change his mind.

"Authenticity is key to everything we do and if we're not authentic in our name and if we're not authentic in the  services we provide our community, we're going to really fail," he said.

Without revealing what the new brand will look like, Burt said the school's Aboriginal advisor spent time speaking with Indigenous elders and students before the college's board of directors selected a new logo.

The institution's name change will wait until the new provincial government settles in. Such a move requires a government order.

The decision comes at a time when cultural appropriation has been in the headlines in Canada and abroad.

In June, delegates from 189 countries, including Canada, met in Geneva to discuss the international legislation that would ban cultural appropriation of Indigenous art, language, dance and other traditional symbols

With files from CBC Radio One's Daybreak North