The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) Timberwolves are now the first college or university athletic program in Canada to unveil an alternate logo and jersey designed completely by an Indigenous artist.
A project that’s been many years in the making, was unveiled this morning (Oct. 20) at a special ceremony with an introduction from Lheidli T’enneh Elder and UNBC’s Elder-in-Residence Marcel Gagnon.
UNBC Director of Athletics and Recreation, Loralyn Murdoch then welcomed dignitaries, UNBC supporters, and Timberwolves athletes to Masich Place Stadium to reveal the new uniforms, designed by Gitxsan artist Trevor Angus.
“It has been years in the making and it started as an idea that we would take our deep respect for the Indigenous community and find a way to represent it on the court and on the pitch,” said Murdoch.
“Our goal was for this to be an inclusive and collaborative process and to do it properly - from concept to design, to specific elements you will see in the jerseys and the shorts, including having them smudged in a traditional ceremony.”
Murdoch explained that Timberwolves already work with the First Nations Centre and Elders to make drums which are then gifted to graduating student-athletes.
“Our athletes have already benefited from this project so much,” added Murdoch. “We will continue to educate them for years to come about the significance of the drums and the meaning of the elements of this specialty uniform which they will have the opportunity to wear.”
Angus, who designed the logo, was also a former student at UNBC attending from 2000 to 2003 and previously designed the logo for the First Nations Centre.
When visiting the Prince George campus, Angus was approached by the athletic department about the possibility of designing his own interpretation of the Timberwolves logo.
“Of course, I was excited about it because as a student at UNBC, I went to watch the Timberwolves play and I always thought it would be really cool if I was able to design the jersey and it actually happened, so I was really excited and I’m still excited about it,” said Angus.
“They already had the idea of the wolf, which I thought was perfect for our team uniform because wolves work as a team and it’s a pack and I envisioned the design as what it is before I ever put pencil to paper so it was something that came together really naturally.”
Angus took the Timberwolves wolf logo that has been used since 1998, and interpreted it, along with creating custom Indigenous piping that adjourns the sides of the soccer and basketball uniforms.
He also supplied UNBC with an additional wolf design that sits subtly beneath the main Timberwolf logo.
Angus added he’s excited to see the uniforms unveiled as the project was delayed for almost two years by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It's really awesome to have it as the first jersey anywhere in the country that has an Aboriginal aspect to it, and I am really proud to be involved in this.”
UNBC Interim president Dr. Geoff Payne said the uniforms are another tangible, substantial step the university is taking towards representation and acknowledgment.
"I am incredibly proud of this entire project and what it represents,” said Payne. “This will only propel us forward towards better relationships and understanding, and I am thrilled it is happening here in Northern B.C."
The jerseys and shorts display also meaningful messages that were important to the Timberwolves and the program’s stakeholders.
In consultation with Lheidli T’enneh Chief and Council, the shorts bear syllabics that translate to “En Cha Huna,” which sits across the back shoulders of every jersey.
“En Cha Huna,” is UNBC’s motto, from Dakelh (Carrier) Elders, and is interpreted as “respecting all forms of life”.
"The motto "En Cha Huna" is truly important, and encapsulates our spirit of academic freedom, respect for others, and our willingness to recognize all perspectives. To have it on the jerseys, and displayed in syllabics is very special. The design of the uniforms is beautiful, but those elements make us particularly proud,” added Payne.
Those in attendance got their first look at the new jerseys in an video produced by local production company 6ix Sigma, with the project led by former UNBC basketball player Daniel Stark.
Essential to the content, and the project, was the music that accompanies the video. A custom song, provided by Macel Gagnon, was gifted to the Timberwolves, and provides a rousing and meaningful anthem to the day, and the relationship.
Gagnon, who is also a Juno Award-winning musician, as well as a member of Lheidli Chief and Council, provided the voiceover work for the video in addition to the music.
“At UNBC we are so fortunate to have an Elder-in-Residence program. Marcel Gagnon is our current elder, and his wisdom and storytelling through song are some of the many things he shares with us,” said Murdoch.
“Marcel is the voiceover on the video, and he created a Timberwolf song which he performed and has gifted to us. This is an amazing legacy from a truly outstanding man.”
The soccer version of the new jerseys will make their debut this Saturday, Oct. 23 against the visiting TRU WolfPack.
The event will be the first annual “Nats’ilnik Day,” which is the Dakelh word for “coming together.”
The Timberwolves basketball teams will have their first “Nats’ilnik Day” on Nov. 6 against the TRU WolfPack. Admission for both Nats’ilnik Days will be free.