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Ojibway artist from Red Lake Ont., collaborates with NHL's Chicago Blackhawks on Land Acknowledgement

An Ojibway artist from Red Lake Ont., now has his artwork on display in the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks home arena as part of the teams' new Land Acknowledgement.

Artist from Red Lake Ont., calls his collaboration with the Chicago Blackhawks a 'big moment'

The Chicago Blackhawks Land Acknowledgement recognizes the traditional lands of the Miami, Sauk, Meskwaki, Ho-Chunck, Menominee, and the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi Nations. Patrick Hunter, an Ojibway artist from Red Lake Ont., created artwork for the new initiative. (Chicago Blackhawks/NHL.com)

An Ojibway artist from Red Lake Ont., now has his artwork on display in the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks home arena as part of the teams' new Land Acknowledgement.

Patrick Hunter designed digital artwork for the project, which made its debut before the Blackhawks game against the Detroit Red Wings in the 2020-2021 home opener, an opportunity he calls an honour.

"As a national sports team … they didn't have to take this great step towards reconciliation," said Hunter in an interview with CBC Radio.

Hunter's digital artwork surrounds the arena during the Land Acknowledgement and includes floral designs and colourful feathers.

He said as he was creating the design, he wanted to make something that a lot of people could "digest and understand" as being a part of the history of the surrounding regions of Chicago.

Hunter said the feathers he designed represent the First Nations around Chicago and Sauk War Leader Black Hawk. (Patrick Hunter/Instagram)

According to the team, the Land Acknowledgement is part of the Blackhawks' ongoing efforts to collaborate with Native American people to elevate, support and engage in "Native-led education, art partnerships, and community development," and to "honour and celebrate Black Hawk's legacy."

"These designs have been thoughtfully and carefully placed alongside the Land Acknowledgement video with the artist's assistance in an effort to create a more profound experience that we hope will lead the public to begin or continue their understanding and learning of each of the Native Nations represented and beyond," reads a release from Nina Sanders, partner and advisor to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Hunter admits at first he was apprehensive about the opportunity due to ongoing appropriation of Indigenous culture specifically in the sports world, but added that he quickly grew to trust the intention of the team and their integrity.

"So, I wasn't sure if I was the one that needed to be in that sort of arena," explained Hunter.

"I understand that there's a lot of Indigenous people that don't like Land Acknowledgements. And, you know, all we get is this lousy Land Acknowledgement sort of rhetoric … but here was an opportunity for a national sports team to take the next step, would actually be a, you know, a template, or like a leader to other teams."

Patrick Hunter is a 2spirit, Ojibway, Woodland artist from Red Lake, ON (Submitted by Purolator)

Hunter said seeing the reveal of his design on TV was a "big moment" for him and adds it's been an exciting experience for his loved ones back home as well.

"They're very proud of me up north and back home in Red Lake and you know that's part of the job … making people happy through artwork. It just so happens I got to do it on such a huge beloved stage," he said.

However, this wasn't the first time Hunter's art has made it to a big stage. In December of 2020, Hunter's art was featured on Purolator seasonal shipping boxes, and also he recently created artwork for a TSN documentary called Unwanted Visitor, the story of NHL coach Ted Nolan.

If you find yourself watching a Chicago Blackhawks home game this season, you might recognize some artwork from a northern Ontario Ojibway artist. Red Lake's Patrick Hunter designed a digital art piece that appears in the arena during a land acknowledgement. He spoke with Up North's Olivia Levesque. 7:54

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