New Brunswick

Pabineau First Nation artist offended by use of her artwork for trail race

Mi'gmaw artist Phyllis Grant is offended that her creation has been distorted and used to promote a 100-mile race along the Mi'gmaq Trail. 

Phyllis Grant calls it cultural appropriation

Mi'gmaw interdisciplinary artist Phyllis Grant said she originally sold the design to Pabineau First Nation. It was eventually used as a logo for the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail, which the First Nation had begun restoring in the 1980s. (Facebook)

Mi'gmaq artist Phyllis Grant is offended that her creation has been distorted and used to promote a 100-mile race along the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail. 

"It disturbed me to see," said Grant, a member of Pabineau First Nation.

"And the thing that disturbed me — it was on a trophy for a sporting event. We are trying so hard to not have that type of imagery out there. People work so hard to get rid of this concept of mascots and tokens and trophies, and it's appropriation, if you really look at it."

Grant created the design and sold it to Pabineau First Nation in the 1990s. It was ultimately used as the logo for the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail, which stretches from the Daly Point Nature Reserve in Bathurst to the centre of Mount Carleton Provincial Park. 

Grant said she used the outline of a turtle to represent Turtle Island, which for some Indigenous groups refers to North America. She also incorporated other culturally significant elements like trees, a waterfall and the four colours that represent four directions. 

Recently she noticed the logo had been altered, and the turtle was made to appear to be running. 

Pabineau First Nation artist Phyllis Grant said she was 'dismayed' to see how her original art was altered and put on a trophy for a trail race. (Submitted by Phyllis Grant)

"It was too much for me to take and too much for me to be silent about — especially with the news lately … finding the children at the residential school and dealing with … this historical trauma.

"This might not be as big as that, but still, they're taking something that represents our culture and our community and they're relating it to a sporting event."

Grant said she was also disturbed by the use of the term Mi'gmaq in the name of the race. 

When contacted through Facebook, the organizers of the event declined to be interviewed, and the precise relationship between the race event and the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail. 

They did send a comment, saying the "organizing committee of the Mi'gmaq 100 Trail Race acknowledges the concerns brought forth in regards to the use of the Mi'gmaq name and the event logo. 

The altered image was used on the trophy for the Mi'gmaq 100 Trail Race. This post has since been taken down from the Facebook page. (Facebook)

"For this reason, we have reached out to the Pabineau First Nation band council to schedule a meeting, where these concerns can be addressed in a formal and constructive setting. It is our sincere wish to ensure the interests of all parties can be met in a thoughtful and meaningful way."

Grant said she's not angry, but she does hope to spark some conversation and education "and make people who want to work with First Nations think about how they approach communities and how they approach utilizing something that is a symbol of something that is sacred."

Messages left with Pabineau First Nation on Friday were not returned.


Mia Urquhart is a journalist with CBC New Brunswick, based in Saint John. She can be reached at