Anishinaabe art in the spotlight on new Team Canada curling uniforms

Anishinaabe art will be on full display on Team Canada uniforms at next year’s Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing. 

Red Lake, Ont., two-spirit artist Patrick Hunter, whose family is from Keeseekoowenin First Nation northwest of Brandon, Man., is excited his designs will reach a larger audience. 

“It feels pretty insane that they’re going to be seen on this world stage by millions of people,” Hunter says. 

“I just want there to be a lot more visibility for Indigenous people in Canada, and what a great stage to put that on.”

Hunter hopes the uniforms will facilitate connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in the country. 

“I feel like a lot of times that connection is sort of missing… That’s sort of the goal behind this whole project for me, was to create conversations around First Nations culture… put it in the spotlight a little bit,” he says. 

Ojibwe artist Patrick Hunter says he hopes his uniform designs inspire dialogue between Indigenous communities and the rest of Canada. (Submitted by Patrick Hunter)

The featured designs include seven trees to represent the seven grandfather teachings of the Anishinaabe culture, four eagle feathers which represent an honoured gift for the four team members, and four sacred medicines meant to symbolize positive energy for the players. The physical design of the shirt was created by Winnipeg artist Kevin Hurrie. 

The artist is no stranger to the sport world, and recently made headlines with his artwork adorning NHL goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s mask, as well as digital artwork for the Chicago NHL team’s land acknowledgement in its home arena. 

Indigenous art, business collide as ‘natural fit’

The official uniform partner for Curling Canada, Dynasty Curling, is a Métis-owned apparel company based in Winnipeg. Owner Colin Hodgson says that since Hunter was a previous classmate of his fiancé, the connection seemed to develop naturally.

“We wanted to make sure we incorporated Canadian culture,” says Hodgson, who is also playing for Team McEwen at the Canadian Olympic Trials in Saskatoon. 

“We reached out [to Patrick] and he was excited for the project and to incorporate Indigenous culture into our uniforms, and to show support from the Indigenous community to our Canadian athletes going to the games,” Hodgson says, noting Hunter’s custom design of the Maple Leaf was particularly special. 

“There are a few Métis players, and it’s just something very important to us right from the get-go. It was a perfect fit, I would say,” Hodgson says.

“We actually manufacture our apparel in Winnipeg. It’s very important to have a Canadian company manufacturing in Canada, for Canadian athletes.” 

He notes the uniforms were also designed with Hurrie, who has the niche job of sublimating the fabric and the designs.

Collin Hodgson, left, is competing at the Olympic Curling Trials, seen here with Curling Canada’s Nolan Thiessen, right. (Submitted by Nolan Thiessen)

Curling Canada says the collaboration for the uniforms is a way to accomplish another of the TRC’s calls to action No. 83. 

“We have a lot of Canadian values and we wanted to continue to show that,” says Nolan Thiessen, executive director of marketing and plan experience. 

“I think this is a really neat story to work with a really talented artist, to use our platform to showcase their skills and maybe create awareness in other communities that haven’t thought about curling before.”

Thiessen says call to action No. 92 was recently addressed with the opening ceremony of the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials in Saskatoon, with the first-ever grand entrance led by the Saskatoon Tribal Council, in partnership with Tourism Saskatoon. 

“We wanted to show that we’re an inclusive sport… all pieces of Canada, right? That’s one of the big things with us, as a national sport organization — we want everybody to feel like they have a home at Curling Canada, and this has been an awesome opportunity to do that.”

Thiessen says the uniforms will be presented this Sunday to the winning teams who will represent Canada at the 2022 Beijing Games from February 4-20.