The Indigenous culture of Winnipeg and Manitoba will be celebrated on the ice Feb. 16-17 as the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose play host to Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre (WASAC) Night on Saturday and Follow Your Dreams Day on Sunday.
For WASAC Night Feb. 16, the Winnipeg Jets will welcome 30 Indigenous youth from northern and remote First Nations including Lac Brochet, Oxford House, Pauingassi and Shamattawa. These students will get to take part in the Jets’ and Ottawa Senators’ game day skates and go skating at Camp Manitou with Indigenous NHL alumni Reggie Leach, Jamie Leach and Daryl Stanley before returning to Bell MTS Place for the game. Winnipeg country and folk singer Don Amero will perform the national anthem and there will also be a performance by drumming group Spirit Sands Singers and a ceremonial puck drop featuring Indigenous youth and elders.
Five hundred youth from Indigenous communities in Manitoba will take part in a meet-and-greet and Q&A session with the Indigenous NHL alumni Feb. 17 before attending the Manitoba Moose American Hockey League game against the Milwaukee Admirals.
As part of the events, True North Sports & Entertainment enlisted the help of Red River College graphic design student and Pimicikamak Cree Nation member Leticia Spence to create special versions of the team’s logos which will be printed on T-shirts that will be sold at both the games with all proceeds going to the WASAC.
“We wanted to find a way of expressing the idea of this partnership with both the Winnipeg Jets and Manitoba Moose and the Indigenous community both locally in Manitoba and across Canada,” said True North director of creative content Josh Dudych in a press release. “It was really important to us to create some visual language that resonated with the Indigenous community. So, it very quickly became apparent that we had to enlist some help.”
Spence proved to be the perfect fit.
“Her wealth of knowledge on Indigenous culture and artwork and that visual language, as well as her experiences as a designer really provided us with a solid footing for the ability to create some logo and branding that resonated with the Indigenous community and lent everything an air of authenticity that we probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve without her help,” said Dudych.
Spence chose beadwork as the inspiration for her Jets logo
“A lot of my family does beading,” Spence said. “That’s been passed down from my auntie, and so when I was thinking about this design, I was thinking about my Auntie Betsy and the patterns she would make for our moccasins that she would give us every Christmas. I also wanted to keep in mind the medicine wheel because of the circle. I thought it would look really good to include that in a way that is modern and contemporary to reflect Indigenous culture which is constantly evolving.”
The moose logo was inspired by the work of Norval Morrisseau, who created the Woodland School of Art.
“This style uses a lot of organic lines and the idea of certain energies and how us humans or animals relate to the earth and sky,” Spence said.
True North graphic designer Kevin Jorgenson worked closely with Spence on both of the logos.
“What I found interesting is that every little detail that went into the logo has a meaning, and together they make a story,” said Jorgensen. “We put a lot of trust in Leticia and had a lot of respect with her process and design work. She knocked it out of the park to begin with. The challenge is that we were incorporating new elements into our brand, but we still had to keep the integrity of the Jets brand and Moose brand. So, it was a unique challenge, and her solution to everything was beautiful.”
Kevin Chief, one of the founders of WASAC, said inviting Spence to design the logos was a great way to demonstrate to the youth taking part in the weekend's events where hard work can take them.
“It’s absolutely amazing and the thought and the teachings that have gone into the work that Leticia has done – tying in her Cree culture, and then taking that and working with the incredible people at True North is just wonderful,” said Chief. “You can’t talk about the history of Canada without talking about relationships with Indigenous people, First Nation, Metis, and Inuit people. So, if you’re a Canadian and you’re a Manitoban, this is as much a part of your history as it is ours. But we can’t tell people this is important, we have to show them. And one of the best ways to show it is to celebrate it. What we’re doing is celebrating that collective history together, and it’s critically important that we do that. And there is no better place to celebrate this than in the loudest barn in the National Hockey League.”