New Brunswick

Organizers cancel trail race amid Indigenous artwork concerns

An ultramarathon trail race that was the subject of controversy has been cancelled by the organizers, after an artist from Pabineau First Nation questioned the use of her art to promote the event.

Pabineau First Nation artist Phyllis Grant said she's 'relieved' and 'disappointed'

Mi'gmaq interdisciplinary artist Phyllis Grant said she originally sold the design to Pabineau First Nations but it was eventually used as a logo for the Mi'gmaq Trail. (Facebook)

Mi'kmaw artist Phyllis Grant said she's relieved that her art will no longer be used on a trophy or in promotion for a non-Indigenous sporting event.

A 100-mile trail race scheduled for September along the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail has been cancelled following concerns raised by Grant about how a logo she created was being used to promote the event

"There's a history of our art being used for athletic events that is not very good, it's something that dehumanizes and demoralizes Indigenous people," Grant explained.

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.

But as relieved as the Pabineau First Nation artist is that her work will no longer be used to promote the event, she said she's disheartened that the organizers cancelled the race — something she didn't ask for.

The altered image was used on the trophy for the Mi'gmaq100 Trail Race. This post has since been taken down from the Facebook page. (Facebook)

"I felt bad for the people that they were doing this for," she said. "I don't think they should have cancelled the race, but that's up to them, right?"

Organizers of the trail race declined to do an interview with CBC, but referred to a statement that was posted on the Facebook event page. 

"Admittedly, as a volunteer group, we have not taken adequate steps to ensure that the shared interests of all parties have been met. We sincerely apologize," read part of the statement posted by the organizers.

Grant said she would have preferred that the organizers work with Pabineau First Nation on how to engage with Indigenous culture instead of cancelling the event.

"I assumed that they would say, 'I'm really sorry, Phyllis Grant, it won't happen again, what can we do and how can we find a way to practise cultural competency?'" 

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

Grant said the person who designed the trophy apologized to her through her artist page on Facebook. 

Although organizers of the event declined to do an interview about the situation, they did tell CBC through Facebook that their calls to Pabineau First Nation office have gone unanswered, and that they would still be willing to meet with the community. 

The race was sold out with 200 runners registered to compete. According to the Facebook post, refunds were being issued this week. 

The name of the Facebook page has changed to Course en sentier sur le sentier Mi'gmaq - Trail Race on the Mi'gmaq Trail from its original name, Mi'gmaq 100 Trail Race. 

Grant thinks there's still a lot of unanswered questions for people who were planning on attending the event, and for the Indigenous community.

"I was trying to encourage a cultural competency, so that they could learn from the situation."



Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.