British Columbia

Stz'uminus First Nation artist helps design new goalie mask for Canucks

A previous mask raised concerns about cultural appropriation after a non-Indigenous artist from Sweden used a replica of the Thunderbird on the Stanley Park totem pole.

A previous goalie mask raised concerns about cultural appropriation

The Vancouver Canucks say the new design, inspired by the legend of the orcas and the wolves transforming in packs to hunt on the land and in the ocean, will debut soon. (@Canucks/Twitter)

An artist from the Stz'uminus First Nation is behind the design for this season's Vancouver Canucks goalie mask, rectifying an earlier controversy around the mask's design. 

Vancouver Canucks goalie Braden Holtby revealed a new custom goalie mask in December featuring Coast Salish-inspired artwork.

However, the mask was designed by a non-Indigenous artist from Sweden, David Gunnarsson, who did not have consent to use the Indigenous design — a replica of the Thunderbird on the Stanley Park totem pole originally designed by Kwakwaka'wakw artist Tony Hunt Sr. 

The design immediately raised concerns about cultural appropriation, and Holtby apologized for any offence caused.

Luke Marston, a Coast Salish artist and member of the Stz'uminus First Nation, watched the controversy unfold online. 

"I was excited to see First Nations art on there — I think most people were — but just the way they executed it wasn't so cool," Marston said. "It was more than just appropriation. It was copyright, too."

Marston, however, believed that their intentions were in the right place and was willing to help. He texted Francesco Aquilini, the owner of the Vancouver Canucks, whose number he had because Aquilini had purchased art from Marston before.

Luke Marston, a Coast Salish Artist and Stz’uminus FIrst Nation member, is working on the new design for the goalie mask. (@Canucks/Twitter)

"I got a hold of [goaltender] Braden [Holtby]. We talked for a while ... He felt really bad about the whole thing. He wanted to see if he could fix it in any which way. And then he was telling me that David Gunnarsson — he's the main guy who pretty much does all the goalie masks of all the NHL —  felt really bad, too."

A collaboration was formed.

Marston told Holtby some Coast Salish stories. The one Holtby liked best, Marston said, was the legend of wolves transforming into orcas to hunt on land and sea. 

"He really liked that, and it fit for the Canucks being on the hunt this year," he said.

The new mask design features an orca on one cheek and a wolf on the other, mid-transformation. Gunnarsson painted the logo and Holtby's number on the top and chin. 

Marston, who typically works with wood or bronze, found adapting to the medium of a plastic mask fairly easy.

"[The goalie mask] is shaped well to our art form. First Nations art can be adapted to really anything, but with the mask culture that we do and the masks that we carve, it really lent itself really easily to the art form," he said.

Coast Salish artist Luke Marston holds up the partially completed mask for Vancouver Canucks goalie Braden Holtby. (Luke Marston/Facebook)

The mask has since gone back and forth between Marston and Gunnarsson in Sweden. It is currently with hockey equipment giant Bauer, where specialists are adding padding and straps. 

Marston expects the mask will debut at Saturday's Canucks game.

He says the opportunity to rectify the situation was positive. 

"It's just respecting one another, respecting one another's culture and other people's intentions," he said.

Listen to the interview with Luke Marston on CBC's All Points West:

With files from All Points West