The four artists have worked hundreds of hours over the past month, all in an effort to showcase their art at this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships in Halifax and Moncton.
Lorne Julien of Millbrook First Nation, 61 kilometers north of Halifax, wanted to honor his family with a Mi’kmaq hockey stick. The Mi’kmaw are believed to have invented the first modern hockey stick.
Julien’s research shows that his great-grandfather, Joseph Julien, once worked as part of a group in the early 1900s to fill an order of 12,000 hockey sticks for Eaton’s.
Now, he hopes that his family’s story will be continued when one of his sticks is presented to the winner “Player of the Game”.
“It feels awesome because these trees will be loved forever,” Julien said.
Between Monday and January 5, 2023, teams from around the world will compete in 31 games at the 2023 International Ice Hockey Championship. Players from each team will receive “player of the game” recognition and take home a set of prizes – including a hand-painted stick.
Each stick has a Wabanaki painting, an eagle and each one shares a different story. Julien and three other artists from Atlantic Canada were selected to create the award.
Emma Hassencahl-Perley, a Wolastoqey artist from Neqotkuk, Tobique First Nation 123 kilometers northwest of Fredericton, said her design pays homage to birch bark art from the region, something she is proud to bring to the world stage.
“Our art should be everywhere,” said Hassencahl-Perley, 27. “It’s a reflection of who we are, it’s where we come from, it’s our visual language and it deserves it.”
The Wabanaki Confederacy consisted of the Wolastoqey, Mi’kmaq, Abenaki, Peskotomuktahi and Penosbcot.
She said that in the world of traditional art, sometimes work from Atlantic Canada is lost. But the international competition gives the opportunity for the whole world to appreciate the design.
Hassencahl-Perley said that now one of those who received the trophy designed by her will feel happy.
“It’s like an honor for me at the same time that they’re being honored for their dedication and achieving their goals,” Hassencahl-Perley said.
Robin Paul, a Qalipu Mi’kmaw artist from Newfoundland lives in Welamukotuk, Oromoctou First Nation, 19 kilometers southeast of Fredericton. She designed a stick with an eagle that contained the teachings of the Seven Grandfathers: Courage, Love, Wisdom, respect, truth, humility and honesty.
She said the artist had a week after being selected to paint 20 pieces of wood each and she spent between 10 and 15 hours a day to complete her work.
Complete them, she said, testifying to her commitment.
“I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to do with my artwork, I don’t think I’ll ever do anything,” Paul, 40, said.
Paul’s son played hockey and sports were a good way to bring her family together. To see a world class hockey tournament take a moment to proudly display indigenous talent.
Paul said, “It’s just a great honor to pay attention to the local indigenous community.
For Natalie Sappier, a Wolastoqey artist from Neqotkuk, wood carving is a way to honor her hockey-playing family.
“I think of hockey as a community, when we get together, there’s always laughter and it’s very symbolic,” Sappier, 40, said.
She said being selected fills her with joy and pride, but she is also grateful for the opportunity to make her community proud.
“I paint for my people, I paint for our land, and our water,” Sappier said
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has partnered with Mawi’Art: Wabanaki Artist Collective to identify local talent.
They were originally looking for one Mi’kmaw artist and one Wolastoqey artist, but the board of directors accepted all four applications they received based on the talent they saw.
Grant MacDonald, director of the 2023 IIHF local event, said including indigenous talent and stories is part of it Local bids to host the games.
He said the IIHF wants to remind the public of the Mi’kmaw’s connection to the sport.
Mr. MacDonald said, “We want to educate and we want people to understand that this kind of sport has roots that are unique in this world.