The University of British Columbia’s Athletics and Recreation department unveiled an exciting new piece of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) artwork as part of its Thunderbirds story on Monday, March 13.
The artwork, titled “Thunderbird Takes Flight,” is drawn by Musqueam emerging artist Deanna-Marie Point and is being showcased on one of the massive 12-foot walls of UBC’s long-running Storm the Wall event. The event and its walls are virtually impossible to miss, making this an ideal debut for the art. Over 4,000 students are expected to get up close and personal as they climb over the wall, while thousands more will watch the event as it runs through Wednesday, March 22.
At the unveiling, Deanna-Marie shared a few words about her art: “I wanted to do my best to represent my community, Musqueam, through my art. And I wanted them to be proud of me as a growing artist. And I’m speechless that this has happened. And I’m very excited and very proud. And I have so much respect for the team that chose my art piece and that help work with me.”
The artist noted how the artwork brings together Musqueam and UBC in a single form: “The piece that represents Musqueam is the actual Coast Salish drawing itself. All the shape from the head to the ear to the eye, beak, cheek, the neck, the feathers, the shoulder, the tail, the talons all have designs of Coast Salish and that’s what represents us, the Coast Salish people and the colours are what represents UBC as well as the animal, the Thunderbird.”
Deanna-Marie’s version of the Thunderbird represents a significant milestone in the relationship between UBC and the Musqueam people, on whose land UBC’s Vancouver campus is situated.
For decades, UBC has been associated with the Thunderbirds nickname and has used it with permission from the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw people since a ceremonial gifting in 1948. This gifting included the dedication of the Victory Through Honour pole, which features a figure of a Thunderbird at the top. Based on Kwikwasut’inuxw story of the five tests of Tsikumayi and carved by Ellen Neel, the pole was raised in a public ceremony with permission of the Musqueam people.
Despite this history, the Thunderbirds story at UBC lacked the same representation and storytelling from the Musqueam people. Deanna’s artwork marks the first official Musqueam representation of the Thunderbird at UBC. Signs around the Storm the Wall event encourage people to go to a website to learn more about the artwork and the process behind it.
Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow, yəχʷyaχʷələq, says it is important to represent Musqueam culture through artwork at UBC: “Congratulations to Deanna Point on this new UBC Thunderbirds logo and for representing Musqueam culture and values through this project. The interest in showcasing Musqueam artists has grown in recent years and we love to see our unique design elements being shared throughout our territory. It is important that Indigenous artwork throughout our territory be representative of Musqueam history and culture, or be undertaken with our prior knowledge and collaboration. UBC’s athletics and recreation department and this logo project are excellent examples of how best to honour Musqueam’s relationship to this territory: through patience, mutual respect and openness to listen and learn about our protocols.”
While the artwork is making its initial appearance at Storm the Wall, it is rooted in the idea that it will become something more significant, including future uses for special events and adorning particular facets of the many sport facilities around UBC’s campus. Kavie Toor, the managing director of athletics and recreation, says this version of the Thunderbird is distinctive and purposeful.
“This new artwork of the Thunderbird is representative of the ongoing efforts we’re making to collaborate with the Musqueam. The design speaks for itself and is a testament to working with a talented artist like Deanna and the true spirit of partnership with Musqueam in selecting and refining the piece.
“It will be special for UBC and its use will be reserved for specific occasions. We really want to make sure that when the artwork is visible, there’s cues for people to learn about the artwork and Musqueam. It is a unique opportunity to reach students and the UBC community that brings to life the importance of education, reconciliation, and decolonization.”